Shelton aldermen approve budget with slight tax decrease

The Board of Aldermen has approved a $115.83 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which includes giving the Board of Education (BOE) $200,000 more than in previous budget proposals.

The new budget will bring a slight decrease in the mill rate, from 22.40 to 22.31. That represents a 0.4% tax decrease, which likely would lower most people’s tax bills by $10 to $25 annually.

The budget was approved 7-0 with limited discussion at an early Thursday evening meeting at Shelton City Hall. Alderman Noreen McGorty was absent.

Anglace: 'Affordable tax rate'

Aldermanic President John F. Anglace Jr. said the approved budget is “a tax and spending plan that will manage our city well and give our citizens one of the most affordable tax rates in Connecticut. This budget also helps to stabilize our business community, allowing them to grow and provide much needed jobs.”

Anglace praised Mayor Mark Lauretti, saying his leadership for the past 22 years “has brought Shelton from the economic ruin of a mill town to one of the most desirable places to live and work in Connecticut.”

Overall city spending in the 2013-14 budget will increase by much less than 1% — at $273,000 in real terms, or 0.2%. The new fiscal year will begin July 1.

Lauretti: Creating incentive for growth, jobs

Lauretti, who was at the meeting, said keeping the mill rate low “creates the incentive for growth,” leading to job creation and economic vitality. This helps residents secure employment and have financially healthy lives, he said.

Lauretti said Shelton residents should know the budget being approved is a realistic one. “These numbers are proven — year after year,” he said.

“It’s been a long process with a lot of scrutiny and a lot of back and forth,” Lauretti said of finalizing a budget.

School budget

The Board of Education now will receive $65.6 million in 2013-14, which is a 2.92% spending increase. The BOE had requested $66.8 million, or a 4.9% increase over the current education budget. Lauretti had reduced the school budget request by $1.4 million.

School Supt. Freeman Burr said the added $200,000 for the BOE would help close the gap between expected spending and funding for next year. The gap had been $840,000 but now appears to be about $400,000, based on the increased budget allocation, employee healthcare insurance cost savings and other factors.

“We’re pleased the aldermen heard our requests,” Burr said. “Obviously our entire gap isn’t closed, but they made a good-faith effort to close it somewhat. It could have been a lot worse.”

Burr will put together a plan of possible 2013-14 spending reductions to be presented to the BOE sometime next week. Cuts could be made in non-special education student tutoring as well as part-time clerical and custodial costs.

“I will present a menu of possibilities,” he said. “We’ll do the best we can given the circumstances.”

At the May 22 school board meeting, BOE Chairman Mark Holden said the upcoming budget year will bring challenges for the school system. “The budget is still going to be a bit of a challenge, but I think we’re up to the task,” Holden said.

Anglace said based on meetings with school officials, the BOE gap is less than believed by education officials — perhaps by as much as $312,000. That, combined with the $200,000 in new revenue added by the aldermen, should be sufficient for the school system, he said. “They can work with it,” Anglace said.

Tax impact on homeowners

With the new budget, someone in Shelton whose home is assessed at $100,000 would see his or her $2,240 tax bill go down by $9; someone whose home is assessed at $150,000 would see the $3,360 tax bill reduced by $13; and someone whose home is assessed at $225,000 would see the $5,040 tax bill go down by $20.

Real estate is assessed at 70% of market value in the state of Connecticut.

Adjustments in the budget

In addition to adding $200,000 to the school allocation, the aldermen made some other less significant changes in the budget.

On the revenue side, this included adding $30,000 for economic development (annual report), $30,000 for police-related computer data processing, $25,000 for public works payroll, $24,200 for youth programs, and $20,000 for police non-certified staffing.

They cut $9,000 from the fire department for physical exams, $6,900 from the library system for part-time employees, and $5,000 from payments to The Umbrella (the private, nonprofit anti-domestic violence agency will now receive $15,000).

The aldermen balanced the budget increases with expected hikes in revenue — $140,000 in investment income, $120,000 for FEMA reimbursements, and $76,900 in anticipated higher tax revenue.

The budget process began earlier in the year when department heads presented requests to Lauretti. The mayor released his proposed budget in late March, and the Board of Apportionment and Taxation acted on the budget in late April. The Board of Aldermen vote on May 23 should represent the final step in the process as Lauretti is not expected to veto any aspect of the aldermen-approved budget.