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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Mayor's budget to increase by 2.36 percent

By Brian McCready, Milford Bureau Chief
MILFORD — Mayor James L. Richetelli Jr. on Friday called his proposed $71.72 million 2008-09 city government budget, which represents a 2.36 percent increase from this year, a “bare bones” spending plan that just maintains current services.

The current city government budget is about $70 million.

Richetelli said no new programs are being added, and that one new police officer and a new auditor are the only positions added.

But, because the Board of Education has proposed an $82.9 million budget, representing a 6.4 percent increase from this year, a tax increase may result, Richetelli said.

Richetelli, a Republican, said he’s disappointed that the Democrats campaigned on a theme of fiscal responsibility, but the Democratic-controlled school board failed to make budget reductions.

Aldermanic Chairman Ben Blake, D-5, said the school board is just the first stop with the school budget, and the aldermen will reduce it in a way that does not hurt programs or programming.

As for Richetelli’s budget, Blake said, “we’re happy that he’s joining the Democrats in at least eking his way back into the world of fiscal responsibility.”

Richetelli said it’s too early to tell whether residents will face a tax increase even if reductions are made to the school budget.

He said it’s even more complicated because the city is in the second year of phasing in the effects of revaluation.

Richetelli referred to last year where the grand list of taxable property increased by 86 percent.

He said if a person’s property increased by more than 86 percent last year, it’s likely they will pay more in taxes, but if a person’s property increased by less than 86 percent there is a “good chance your taxes will be flat or go down.”

The current tax rate is 31.77 mills, and the only thing certain is that the rate will decrease, but an exact number will not be known until the end of May. Richetelli’s budget is now in the hands of the Board of Finance, which will vote in March. The Board of Aldermen will vote on a final budget in May.

A public hearing on the city and school budget is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall.

Richetelli said he reduced department heads’ requests by $5.4 million, including requests for a second new police officer position and for new firefighters.

Of the $1.65 million in new spending, the mayor said, $934,994 is attributable to the 2.5 percent salary increase all city employees contractually receive. Another $595,593 is due to employees’ benefits, and $98,000 is for utility increases.

Richetelli said the city is spending 60 percent of its total budget on education, including paying for school employees’ health insurance.

Richetelli also noted that over the past eight years, the city has increased school spending by $26 million, which includes the money the school board is seeking next year.

Richetelli praised his department heads for doing a great job in keeping their budgets as low as possible.

The mayor said being able to put forth a budget that is actually less than the 2.5 percent increase city employees receive is a real accomplishment. Salaries and benefits comprise about 80 percent of the budget.

Brian McCready can be reached at 876-3001 or Visit the All About Milford blog at