No Tax Increase

By at April 12, 2017 | 8:25 pm | Print

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Mayor’s Budget Leads the Way

Mayor Erin E. Stewart Wednesday night presented the Common Council a $241.53 million budget proposal, entitled “Leading the Way,” that calls for no tax increase.

The $241,537,535 million budget represents an increase of less than 1 percent over the current year budget. Due to Grand List growth, the tax rate will stay level at 50.50 mills.

“It was not an easy thing to do. We had our work cut out for us,” said Stewart.

Mayor Stewart received the Board of Finance and Taxation budget on March 7. It showed a 1.35 percent increase over last year’s budget which would have meant a mill rate increase of 12 percent.

“The Board of Finance can’t make structural changes. They can’t eliminate positions or restructure debt. We worked on those changes diligently,” said Stewart. “I have to applaud the Board of Finance and Taxation and our Department heads for all their hard work over the last several months. Their zero-based budgeting approach allowed them to reduce spending as much as possible without cutting services. The City is already operating on a lean spending plan and this proposal maintains core services that our residents expect.”

Mayor Stewart continued, “This budget makes a strong commitment to continuing with our urban development projects, funds our labor obligations and our schools, funds an annual paving program, and seeks innovative ways to increase our revenue.”

The Mayor said this budget takes a look back at where she started 4 years ago.

Each budget she has done has had different names – Stability and Responsibility, Investing in a Stronger Tomorrow and last year’s budget was called a SMART budget.

“We were $30 million in debt and on the edge of bankruptcy and now we are not on auto-pilot but we are managing things so much more efficiently than we have in the past,” said Stewart. “What we are spending money on is better accounted for. Now we have a zero based budget.”

Under the spending plan, 52.44 percent of the budget would go to the Board of Education. The School board is not getting an increase in funds over last year. Last year it was given a $2.5 million increase. It requested a 0.85 increase.

Savings in the budget come from a school transportation reduction, a reduction in overtime costs, an estimated reduction in electricity costs, and employee healthcare cost savings. Savings were also budgeted for the reorganization of City Hall (which reduced the number of department heads) and through the restructuring of debt.

There is a 1 percent increase in the Grand List which equals to about $1 million. Twenty-three new businesses opened since the last budget presentation and seven expanded. Over 200 new jobs were created and the City unemployment rate went from 11 percent to 5.4 percent under Stewart.

Other new revenue stems from fee increases, an agreement with TaxServ to collect delinquent motor vehicle and property taxes, and an agreement with Tax Management Associates to audit personal property declarations. Those two services are expected to bring at least $2.3 million.

“That is very conservative with what their overall numbers were,” said Stewart.

There will be no more free events in the City. This costs the City about $40,000.

“We have to pay for that some how. We cannot not charge for festivals,” said Stewart. “It will bring in additional revenues.”

About $2 million will be spent on repaving City streets.

The car tax will go down from 37 mills to 32 mills as required by the State.

Forty-percent of the City budget is reliant on the State. Stewart said that no one knows exactly how much money will come from the State. Several previous grants were not included in the budget.

“I feel confident about this budget despite the uncertain financial outlook at the state level,” said Mayor Stewart. “With this budget proposal, we are truly ‘Leading the Way’ in setting an example for other communities and for future budgets.”

The Common Council has scheduled a public hearing on the proposal for April 25 at 7 p.m. at Smalley Elementary School. The Council will meet to approve the budget on June 1. The Mayor’s budget presentation will be available to view at www.newbritainct.gov. The public is also invited to view the Mayor’s budget address live on her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ErinStewartCT.

 

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