Taxes, fees up, as spending drops about 16 percent to produce balanced package
By Rachel Ravina, Staff Writer
(June 13, 2019) The Berlin mayor and council adopted a $15.2 million budget for fiscal year 2020 at their meeting Monday night.
The budget represents a 16.26 percent decrease from the fiscal year 2019’s $18.2 million budget, according to budget reports. Roughly $3 million was cut for the upcoming fiscal year.
Within the general fund, multiple departments made cuts to the fiscal year 2020 budget. The general fund had about $6.2 million approved for fiscal year 2020 as opposed to the roughly $7.2 million for fiscal year 2019, according to budget reports. That’s a 13.80 percent decrease.
The parks and recreation department decreased by 36.84 percent, the police department was cut by 11.02 percent and the economic development department’s budget decreased by 18.24 percent. However, Mayor Gee Williams said the two New Year’s Eve ball drops stayed in the budget for next year.
Additionally, the property tax rate for the fiscal year 2020 budget was set during at $.80 per $100 of assessed value.
As of July 1, the water utility’s rate will go up 5 percent, and the sewer utility’s rate will rise by 25 percent for the fiscal year 2020 budget.
As for the utility funds, the town’s water fund budget decreased by 18.79 percent for fiscal year 2020, according to budget reports. There was about $1.2 million approved for fiscal year 2019 and nearly $916,000 approved for fis- cal year 2020.
The sewer fund budget decreased by 7.72 percent, or about $200,000, budget reports show. There was about $2.6 million approved for fiscal year 2019 and approximately $2.4 million for fiscal year 2020.
Berlin’s electric utility’s budget decreased by 7.12 percent, according to budget reports. There was about $5.7 million approved for fiscal year 2019 and about $5.3 million approved for fiscal year 2020.
The stormwater fund budget for next year also decreased by 71.69 per- cent, or about $1.2 million, according to budget reports. There was about $1.6 million approved for fiscal year 2019’s budget and nearly $455,000 approved for fiscal year 2020.
During the public hearing portion of the several townspeople empathized with the council.
“I am not going to sell my house or leave town,” Resident Jim Meckly said in a statement. “I am going to pay the higher property taxes and utility costs and continue to enjoy this great place to live.”
Although, Meckly took issue with Williams’ behavior over the course of the budget process.
“However when someone differs with your opinion, they are often recipients of verbal, written or public abusive lectures and rants,” Meckly said in a statement.” I find this distasteful and unbefitting of a public official.”
Berlin resident Marie Velong agreed and urged members of the Town Coun- cil not to patronize community members.
“It discourages people from participating in their government,” Velong said.
Meckly also offered several economic suggestions to the Town Coun- cil.
“Use what we have, stop the excessive buying, live within our means, be frugal, and use common sense,” Meckly said in a statement.
“Spending is not the issue because we’re really frugal,” Councilman Troy Purnell said.
Berlin resident Jason Walter ques- tioned the 18 percent property tax increase as compared to other towns throughout the state.
“I only worry about Berlin here … Berlin is unique to any other municipality in the state or world,” Purnell said.
“I want to thank you very much for your very thoughtful comments,” Williams said. “One thing I think has been very beneficial to this whole 16 weeks considering where we started we’re getting a lot more very thoughtful and considerate recommendations we will … [consider] in future budgets.”
Councilman Dean Burrell agreed.
“During this budget process we have had more participation at our meeting than any time in history since I’ve been [on] the council and I think that’s a good thing,” Burrell said.
However, he added he hopes the participation continues even though the fiscal year 20202 budget process concluded.
“So I implore you to keep coming back,” Burrell said.
Burrell moved to adopt the budget for fiscal year 2020. It was approved with a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Zack Tyndall dissenting.