Spending increase irks residents

BUDGET WATCH:

Naugatuck

Combined town and school

2015-16 approved: $115.2 million

2016-17 proposed: $120.7 million

Increase: $5.5 million, or 4.8 percent

Current tax rate: 45.57 mills

Proposed tax rate: 47.56 mills

Increase: 1.99 mills, or 4.4 percent

Next: Officials will meet July 25 to set the budget.

 

NAUGATUCK — Just 10 residents attended a hearing on the proposed $120.7 million budget Thursday night at Naugatuck High School, and only four of them spoke.

One said he believes there are too many government employees in town and three others questioned why, after taxpayers overwhelmingly rejected the initial budget proposals at a referendum last week, did officials actually increase spending.

Matt Katra, the Republican registrar of voters, questioned why and whether it was even legal for the borough to increase spending when voters rejected the budget.

“Ninety-seven percent of people said the spending was too high, so how can you increase spending?” he asked.

Officials simply said it was not illegal because their charge is to do what is fiscally responsible for the borough. They also noted that due to new revenue projections, the tax rate will actually be significantly lower than it would have been before the referendum defeat.

Officials told a reporter after the meeting that there were some expenditures they didn’t realize were going to be in the budget when they first adopted it in May. For example, in order for Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess to find a way to increase revenue projections within the budget, he needed to negotiate with Veolia Water North America, the company that oversees the borough’s wastewater treatment plant. The end result of that negotiation is that Naugatuck believes it will receive $2.2 million more in revenue from its profit-sharing plan with Veolia than it had originally anticipated.

However, as part of the negotiation, Naugatuck had to agree to take on some additional expenditures at the treatment plant. The borough had to agree to pay, from this budget, $350,000 toward incinerator upgrades and $285,000 for efforts to reduce phosphorous from the effluent.

Additional costs include: increased insurance costs, $52,000; a new part-time position for the assessor’s office, $19,000; money for new police vehicles, $22,000; additional costs for borough employees to enforce ordinances, such as the blight ordinance, $15,000.

Officials said some of those positions should have been put into the original budget and were now added because of the revenue increase.

All told, those line items equal $743,000, which accounts for what was added from the last budget proposal to the current.

The new tax rate proposal of 47.56 mills is down 2.13 mills from the last proposal. The new rate still represents a 1.99-mill increase over the 2015-16 fiscal year rate.

A mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. A resident with a home appraised at $200,000, which would be assessed at 70 percent, or $140,000, would pay $6,658 in property taxes, $279 more than last year. The previous proposed tax rate that failed would have forced that homeowner to pay $581 more than last year.