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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

For Now, Mill Rate Remains the Same

After six arduous months of numbers crunching and uncertainty in the wake of the state’s fiscal crisis, the Board of Finance tonight unanimously kept the tax rate flat for 2017-18.

The mill rate remains the same as it is this year—16.86.

That translates into $16.86 of taxes for every $1,000 of a home’s assessed value determined by last year’s revaluation.

But the Board of Finance’s decision came with a sobering caveat.

“We expect a sizable bill from the state over the next couple of months,” said Brian Stern, finance board chairman, adding that there most likely would be an adjusted tax increase during the first quarter of the fiscal year.

The reason: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, staring down a $1.46 billion state deficit, has proposed $700 million in municipal aid cuts statewide.

He also wants towns to pitch in 30 percent or $407.6 million in the state’s Teacher Retirement System for public school teachers. That number could climb to, $420.9 million in 2019.

Currently, teachers contribute 6 percent of their salary, and the state covers the pensions 100 percent for each of Connecticut’s school systems, an amount reported to be about $1.2 billion this year.

If Malloy’s pension plan, which faces bipartisan opposition in the General Assembly, is approved when the state budget is finalized in September, affluent towns like Westport that pay teachers higher salaries than other towns would be hit hardest, having to contribute more to retirement.

That potential liability translates into an extra $5.9 million per year here, $8 million when tallied with $2.1 million in state cuts to Westport for next year.

Since the budget process began, Stern has said the threat from Hartford “is very real and very large.” As a result, the finance board asked the Board of Education and the town government to cut their already lean budgets even further for next year, which they did.

The municipal budget was finalized at $78.39 million, a decrease, and schools’ operating budget was finalized at $114,377,346, a 1.57 percent increase over the current year. The total town budget for next year is $204,240,189.

Following tonight’s approval of a flat mill rate, First Selectman Jim Marpe praised the Board of Finance for its hard work in light of fiscal uncertainty from the state.

“This was the goal we set back in December,” he said, adding that conservative budgets were in order due to expected state cuts.

—James Lomuscio

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Posted 05/17/17 at 11:15 PM  Permalink



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