Hamden lands on 2 percent tax increase, mayor’s budget in effect
HAMDEN — Homeowners’ taxes will go up nearly 2 percent next year, as a final budget was decided Monday.
Mayor Curt B. Leng’s $23,461,615 budget takes effect next month.
Leng vetoed the council’s $237 million budget June 3 after it barely passed in a Legislative Council meeting in May on a 7-6 vote with one abstention. The council failed Monday to make the two-thirds vote necessary to override Leng’s veto.
The veto override failed — six in favor, eight against — concluding a contentious budget season. The budget will include $463,000 debt service payment the town must legally pay.
Under Leng’s budget, taxes will increase 1.9 percent — from 47.96 mills to 48.86 mills. Under the council’s budget, taxes would have risen 4.2 percent, to 49.99 mills.
Leng said he vetoed the budget because of the “excessive” tax rate increase passed by the council.
Councilwoman at-large Elizabeth Wetmore voted against the override because she didn’t want to put a larger tax burden on residents.
“The taxpayers don’t deserve such a big hike, but I also don’t like the mayor’s,” she said.
But the council members who voted for the override said the revenues in the mayor’s budget are unrealistic and overstated.
Republican at-large Councilwoman Marjorie Bonadies, who voted against the council’s budget and sustained the mayor’s veto, said the entire council agreed Leng’s revenues were unrealistic, but she did not want to pass the tax increase onto residents.
Councilman Brad Macdowall, D-9, said while the mayor’s budget has a smaller tax increase than what the council approved, his budget will have “implications for decades.”
“We can’t bring tax relief if we keep overstating our revenues and taking on debt,” he said.
During a recent council meeting, Deputy Finance Director Rick Galarza said the town’s revenues were over-anticipated $5 million to $6 million in fiscal year 2018-2019.
Councilman Cory O’Brien, D-6, said the same thing has happened this year and the town will end up borrowing money to make up for it.
Council President Michael McGarry voted for the council’s budget, but on Monday voted to sustain the mayor’s veto. McGarry said he had hoped the council would have passed something the mayor could approve, but he agreed the taxes were too high to put on residents.
McGarry said the council will look to put forth budget amendments once it goes into effect, specifically, eliminating police positions and bolstering the emergency and contingency fund.
“In our discussions with the administration, perhaps we could come together to find common ground,” he said. “I’m confident we can make some changes.”
Councilman James Pascarella, D-8, said he voted to sustain the mayor’s budget for the same reason he voted against the council’s in the first place and he wants to return to a collaborative process in crafting the town’s financial document.
Pascarella said the mayor’s revenues are optimistic, but he’s comfortable with his vote.
“Tax increases without thoughtful consideration of their vast impact are harmful to our citizens and would have sent a terrible signal to families and businesses looking to invest in our community,” Leng said in a written statement. “We can do better. Our residents deserve better.”
Leng said he’ll be working with the council and town’s financial team to develop some budget recommendations for next year.