Finance board sets flat mill rate
WESTPORT — The town mill rate will remain unchanged from last year, steady at 16.86.
“It’s great news, and it’s hard work by everyone to deliver a flat mill rate, but there are people who will pay tax increases on that mill rate we set tonight even if it’s flat. And with the SALT (State and local tax) impact, there’s going to be even more hurt,” Board of Finance (BOF) member Michael Rea said at the May 16 meeting. In addition to the mill rate, increases and decreases in homeowners assessments will impact whether their property taxes go up or down.
For a home with a market value of $1,500,000 and an assessed value of $1,050,000, the homeowner will pay $17,703 given the mill rate of 16.86, Town Finance Director Gary Conrad said.
The BOF voted unanimously on the flat mill rate, which comes after the Representative Town Meeting approved an overall budget of $207.5, which covers the town budget of $80 million and an $116 million education budget for fiscal year 2018-19.
Rea hoped the board may be able to deliver a small tax decrease in order to help counter the impact of the federal government's new tax plan on Westport residents, but he said it wasn’t possible to lower the mill rate and keep the reserve fund at 11 percent of the overall budget, which is nearly $25 million.
“Why do we have 25 million dollars, approximately, of taxpayer money sitting around at a fairly low interest? Should it be a lower amount sufficient to keep it safe,” board Chairman Brian Stern questioned, calling on the board, in the coming year, to analyze the appropriate level of reserves to keep the town financially safe and protect its bond rating.
“The big expenditure that’s sitting out there is the SRO’s,” board member Lee Caney said, acknowledging the town’s impending ask for an $320,000 appropriation request for two School Resource Officers (SRO’s), which was not included in the RTM’s approved budget.
First Selectman Jim Marpe lent support for the board’s decision to keep the mill rate at 16.86, saying he’s heard anecdotal evidence from people who say the town’s steady mill rate over the last five to six years helped to encourage them to move to town.
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