BY ANDREAS YILMA
NAUGATUCK — The Joint Boards of Mayor and Burgesses and the Board of Finance on May 17 adopted a $137.3 million budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year after a hearing that was lightly attended by the public.
The budget increases overall spending by about $5.1 million, or about 3.8 %, over this fiscal year, with expected decreases in the mill rate for the next three years.
Immediately following the special joint boards meeting, the Board of Mayor and Burgesses set the tax rate at 44.75 mills — a 3 mill decrease from this fiscal year.
The tax rate is the amount of taxes payable on the assessed value of property. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value. Under a 44.75 mill rate, property taxes on a home assessed at $100,000 are $4,475.
Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said the most difficult part of the budget season this year was the implementation of revaluation.
“We did our best to implement revaluation in the fairest manner possible which we feel is a three-year phase-in where the mill rate will decrease every year during that three-year period,” Hess said. “That method helps the most number of people in the borough. In addition to that, the group that is most vulnerable are senior citizens, will have the benefit of an elderly tax credit and thirdly, our commercial and industrial properties and some residential properties who actually see a decrease in their taxes, will not see it in year one but they will see 75% of it by year two. So the entire exercise and challenge this year, was to find a method that would be fairest to everyone and I believe the method we chose is the fairest to everyone.”
The Board of Mayor and Burgesses at a May 10 special meeting approved the implementation of the revaluation of all real property in the borough effective by gradually phasing in the increase of assessments for the Oct. 1, 2022, grand list over three years.
For the Oct. 1, 2022, grand list, 40% of the increase of assessments for each property would be phased-in. During the following two years, they would be phased-in at 35% and 25%, respectively.
The borough board also approved a senior homeowner local tax relief program for three years that would provide a $600 credit in year one, a $300 credit in year two and a $150 credit in year three. Borough officials are expected to refine the program, after which it would be brought back to the borough board for a final vote at the June 6 meeting.
Borough officials are doing this in a way to improve the borough’s credit rating to eventually move toward a Triple A credit rating. That rating would provide benefit of lower interest rates, where the budget helps move in that direction, Hess said.
Board of Finance Chairman Ken Hanks said there have been a couple of emails and social media posts about taxes going up $2.000 to $3.000 per year and that is grossly inaccurate.
“Based on our projections, it goes down three mills this year, it’ll go down from 44.75 to approximately 40.7 next year and it will go down to approximately 38.35 in year three,” Hess said.
Some of the last changes to the budget include an addition of $18,650 for the elections line item for election payroll needs and the subtraction of that same amount from the $2.7 million reserve fund account that would be replenished with surplus from the Park and Recreation account.
Some of the other larger department budgets include $8.2 million for police, about $5 million for fire and roughly $7 million for public works. The biggest portion of the budget is the Board of Education at $67.1 million.