BETHEL - The Board of Finance recommended a $55.3 million municipal and school budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
That recommendation is $2.7 million over the present budget of $52.7 million and translates to a 4.9 percent increase in the tax rate, also known as the mill rate.
The current mill rate of 26.48 means a homeowner whose house is assessed at $200,000 pays $5,296 in real estate taxes.
Under the recommended budget, the mill rate would go up by 1.29 mills to 27.77 mills, which means the same homeowner in the 2006-2007 fiscal year would pay $5,554 in real estate taxes, an increase of $258.
"We managed to keep it tight," finance board chairman
Jr. said. "And I think that's important for the Bethel taxpayer, and I hope we can fly through on this."
A public hearing on the recommended budget is set for March 27, when changes could be made in the finance board's proposal based on comments from residents.
"We tried to satisfy what taxpayers want," said Braden about the recommended budget. "But if they feel it's really out of line, we will reconsider."
A final budget then goes to a town meeting in early May and to a machine vote in mid-May.
First Selectman Bob Burke
said he hopes residents pass the budget on the first vote.
"I hope all factions will accept this budget," Burke said. "It represents the middle of the road."
One group that is not supporting the recommended budget is the taxpayer watchdog group
Bethel Action Committee
"I think it's a good first start," BAC chairman
said. "But a tax increase nearly double the rate of inflation is not acceptable to a majority of Bethel taxpayers, as evidenced by recent history."
Paulsen was referring to last year's budget defeats, when the budget that finally passed on the fourth round reflected a 4 percent increase in the tax rate.
The finance board accepted a recommendation from the selectmen to approve the $34.4 million school budget proposed by superintendent
in late January.
That budget represents a 5.1 percent increase over the current $32.7 million budget but is $200,000 short of the $34.6 million budget proposed by the school board in mid-February.
"As an education advocate, I'm disappointed," school board chairman
said about the $200,000 shortfall. "But as an education realist, I'm not surprised."
He said history shows "the first budget is the best" and urged school supporters to pass a budget on the first round.
In their recommendation to the finance board on the school budget, selectmen said they supported the elimination of pay-to-play sports, a policy instituted by the school district last year.
The school board this year also voted to eliminate pay-to-play, and Carlsen said that "unless there's some wholesale change of sentiment," that elimination will remain.
On the municipal side, the recommended budget for town services would increase by $1.4 million, from the present $15.3 million to $16.7 million, which is an 8.8 percent rise.
That increase is tempered, town comptroller
said, by a 10.6 percent decline in debt service and brings the overall rise in the municipal budget to about 4.5 percent.
Besides contractual salary increases, Curina said the municipal budget is driven by a $393,000 increase in gas, fuel and utilities, and a health insurance jump of $161,000.
Three new part-time positions, totaling about $50,000, are included in the municipal budget for the assessor, public works and land use offices.
Also included is $26,000 for computer software for the assessor and tax collector offices to "increase productivity," Burke said.
Contact Marietta Homayonpour
or at (203) 731-3336.