Public has only one shot to speak on budget plan
The annual rites of spring began for city politicians last Thursday with the release of Mayor Nancy N. Rossi’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2022, beginning July 1. The proposal clocks in at $165.54, an increase over last year’s $165.2 million spending plan. In it, Rossi is promising to keep the mill rate “constant.” The current mill rate is 37.48 mills.
In her new budget, using a method used for the past few years allowed by the General Assembly, property taxes will be 37 mills, while home taxes will clock in at 34. According to the mayor this is in keeping with her promise in a year of revaluation.
For those not sure, the mill rate is the dollar amount per thousand dollars of assessment that a property owner pays in taxes. State law only allows taxes on 70 percent of the assessed value. A house worth $100,000 is taxed on 70,000 and each thousand dollars of assessment is taxed at $37.48.
There is always the caveat that the city’s mill rate does not include fire district taxes that are set separately, though the Fire Dept. of West Haven-Allingtown is under the auspices of the city budget. The good news there is the mayor’s proposal does not seek any new hikes in that levy.
A quck perusal of the plan shows nothing unexpected, and one or two interesting changes from the past. One in particular is the mayor’s restraint in refusing to include COVID relief funds that are in Gov. Ned Lamont’s still-unpassed state budget. The mayor has determined that none of the expected funding from in the form of nearly $5 million in stimulus funds or Payment-in-Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) is included in the revenue side, and only $1.575 million in the recently passed stimulus bill is included.
The City Council has set March 29 at 6 p.m.as the date of the public hearing. This is the only chance the public will have to speak out on the budget, the major highlights of which are printed in this week’s Voice.
A final note, the failure of last year’s charter revision means the city is still under the rules it’s been playing by for more than half a century. After the public hearing, the City Council goes into a six-week review of the plan as a committee-of-the-whole under the chairmanship of the Finance Committee Chairman Bridget Hoskie (D-1). In order to maintain a quorum, the committee never recesses, but suspends, picking up again at various dates.
One of the flaws of the charter is the committee can only make changes in the proposed budget with a super-majority of nine in the 13-member council. That has been a high bar to attain in the last several decades, meaning few if any actual transfers or cuts were passed.
After the review, the council must pass a budget ordinance by the first Thursday in May, needing only a simple majority. The council may only approve the budget, it cannot deny it. Failure to pass the budget results in the mayor’s original proposal becoming law by default. This has happened in past years and once with disastrous results.
Now is the time for the public to look at the plan, it can be found in its basics on these pages, and more fully on the city’s website. Passing the budget is the most important thing the City Council does. Residents should do their part, and make sure they are informed about what is included before passage,