Fifteen percent reduction included in first reading
By Rachel Ravina, Staff Writer
(May 16, 2019) The Berlin mayor and Town Council introduced a $15.6 million budget for fiscal year 2020 during its Monday night meeting, revealing a spending package that is substantially less than its immediate predecessor.
“This has been a challenging budget cycle – that’s an understatement,” said Mayor Gee Williams, referring to the need to raise revenue and lower costs to restore the town’s financial reserves.
Williams said the proposed budget shows a 15 percent cut in spending, taking roughly $2.6 million off 2019’s $18.2 million budget.
Williams added that items were cut throughout the budgeting process, including raises for town employees, a one-time payment at Thanksgiving as well as BJ’s Wholesale Club and Sam’s Club memberships (which, according to the budget printout, saved $90).
However, one holiday-themed item Williams said he wouldn’t cut.
“It [the budget] retains the one-time $50 gift certificate to employees at Thanksgiving, a longstanding town tradition, which I would like to continue,” he said.
Town officials said while no raises were given, cost-of-living adjustments were included in the budget.
The property tax rate was set at $.80 per $100 of assessed value for the upcoming fiscal year.
Property taxes contributed $2.7 million in revenue to the 2018-19 general fund budget, and officials proposed increasing it by 26.27 percent to $3.4 million, according to budget reports.
The town proposed setting the impact residential fees at $30,000 for fiscal year 2020, which is a decrease of $70,000 from the previous year. The commercial fee, previously set at $15,000, also decreased by $5,000 for the upcoming fiscal year.
Despite the higher property tax rate and the subsequent revenue that will produce, the town’s general fund in the 2019-20 fiscal year will be not quite $838,500 less than the budgeted total for the current year.
Altogether, the general fund showed $7.1 million in revenue for FY19, and $6.3 million under the new plan. The difference between the two is that the town’s general fund revenue in FY19 included a $1.5 million transfer from the town’s reserves and the new fiscal year does not.
Williams also proposed several initiatives he’d like council members to consider once the fiscal year 2020 budget is adopted:
• Reserve balance policies.
• Quarterly budget reports for departments during a January, May, August, and October regular session council meetings.
• Comprehensive reports on sewer fees and debt service.
“Council should review all fees on a regular basis to ensure they cover the cost of the services provided,” Williams said.
Williams also suggested the introduction of the real property tax rate for fiscal year 2021 in January, with the adoption in March.
He added the earlier time frame would give “all town departments [time] to prepare expenses.”
A public hearing for the fiscal year 2020 budget and its adoption is scheduled for June 10 at Town Hall on William Street.