Shelton audit shows low debt, $11M fund balance

SHELTON — The city’s general fund continues to grow as its debt remains significantly lower than other comparable municipalities,’ according to city audit data. 

David Cappelletti of Clemont and Associates, LLC, presented the results of the 2021-22 audit to the Board of Aldermen last week. And the data, as of June 30, 2022, shows the city's general fund balance approaching $11 million. 

“At one point, (the general fund surplus) was close to zero,” said Cappelletti, referring to some three years ago. “Now it is back to a healthy $10 million.” 

Cappelletti added that the city’s debt stands at $15.6 million for the same time period, what he called “significantly low debt compared to other similar communities.” 

Mayor Mark Lauretti said the city’s low debt was "all about discipline."

“We developed a philosophy that compasses everyone — seniors, young families, everyone in between. We have strived to keep taxes low so they can all stay here and thrive," he said. “That's why I don’t have to give tax breaks to companies coming in here."

Data from the 2020-21 fiscal year shows Shelton with a bonded debt per capita of $585, or 142nd among 168 municipalities in the state. By comparison, neighboring Stratford's per capita debt is $5,631. Other neighboring communities — including Newtown ($3,013), Trumbull ($2,592), Derby ($1,990), Monroe ($1,656), and Ansonia ($896) — all sit higher on the list than Shelton. 

The 2021-22 city budget, on which the audit focuses, was set at $130 million, but the city actually spent about $5.1 million less than that.

The city’s mill rate remains low at 17.47, with a growing grand list, increasing tax collections and a continuing flow of new building permit income, Cappelletti reported. 

The 2022 net grand list sits at nearly $6.1 billion in total assessments, which is 70 percent of market value, an increase of more than $72 million over 2021, according to Assessor William H. Gaffney III, who submitted his annual report to the mayor’s office this month. 

The increase comes one year after the grand list increased more than 22 percent from 2020 to 2021, largely due to the revaluation that occurred the previous year. The grand list increased 1.49 percent from 2019 to 2020. 

Lauretti said the report was just the latest in what has become an annual tradition of positive financial news.

“I have to laugh when I hear that anybody can keep taxes low,” Lauretti said. “I don’t see anyone doing it. This is not just about one audit report, we look over a five, a 10, a 15-year period. Look at our surrounding towns. They are all facing huge debts.” 

Board of Aldermen President John Anglace, Jr., credited Lauretti for the city’s fund management. 

"His planning and management of our finances, along with the cooperation of all city departments, boards, and commissions, produces exceptional results which other municipalities find hard to match,” Anglace said.  

Anglace said the city has employed a “five-year straight-line amortization” which consists of paying off a debt over time in equal installments, and avoided creating long-term debt. 

“Our municipal services are competitive, if not better than other towns whose taxes and debt are higher,” Anglace said. 

Lauretti said the city moved away from long-term bonds years ago, instead focusing on 5 or 10-year notes, which allows for less in interest payments. 

Regarding the general fund surplus, Lauretti said he sees no need to “stockpile” cash. 

"We have the ability to generate cash if an emergency occurs,” Lauretti said.