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News

Berlin’s proposed budget shows 12 percent spending increase

6/5/14 | By Josh Davis, Staff Writer

BERLIN– The town’s proposed fiscal year 2015 budget was released to the general public during a Mayor and Council Meeting on May 27.

Total revenue expenditures were up for the first time since 2010, as the proposal increased overall spending by 12 percent, or $474,910. The budget also revealed a $461,010 surplus from the previous year.

Several notable increases, including a 1008 percent, $188,753 jump in the general fund contingency, were due to adjusted numbers shown in the fiscal year 14 amended budget.

“The original amount of $200,000-some dollars was allocated over time during the year,” said Town Administrator Laura Allen. “The council allocated contingencies to other line items, so that original amount was reduced. The reason it looks like such a big difference between what’s in there now and what we’re proposing is because it’s being compared not with the original budget number, but with the allocation that’s left at this point in time.”

Stormwater, a hot-button issue due to major flooding in several areas, projected a spending increase of 178 percent, up $835,600 over the previous year. Water and sewer spending are both projected to increase for the first time since 2010, while electric spending would fall 15 percent.

Other notable increases in spending include a 1,300 percent increase in tourism, up from $500 the previous year to $70,000 in FY 15. Youth program spending looks to increase $23,950, a 298 percent jump, and $150,000 were allocated for sidewalk upgrades on Baker Street, Bryan Avenue, Cedar Avenue, Branch Street West, Grace Street, Flower Street, Maple Avenue and Washington Street. Sidewalk upgrades will be paid by the town’s general fund.

Fringe benefits spending projected an average increase of more than 500 percent across all departments thanks to a one-time $500 pay hike for town employees. Also included in the budget was a 3 percent overall pay raise.

Special connection fees in the water and wastewater funds rose. Water projected a 26 percent jump of $46,250 and wastewater projected a 67 percent increase of $245,220. Allen said the increases were due to expected increases in development. Sewer rates in Berlin will increase by 15 percent beginning on July 1 thanks to a 4-year plan enacted in a 2012 resolution.

Revenues were also on the rise. Stormwater showed an expected 579 percent increase of $875,600, due to anticipated grants of $124,000 from FEMA and $750,000 from the Department of Natural Resources. The additional revenue would fund improvements on Williams Street, which carries a $124,000 price tag, as well as a joint project on Flower and Williams streets, which would cost $750,000.

Highway user revenue showed an increase of 54 percent, or $43,500, due to additional funding provided by the state.

A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held on June 9.

An estimated budget for the Fire Company was not provided in the draft made available for the press because a department audit was not completed in time. “We did get an audit from PKS and the company on Friday, so we’re in the process of looking at the audit and finalizing the allocations for the fire company,” said Allen. “That will be discussed at the meeting.”

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