Over four nights, Milford City Council held budget hearings, gaining an understanding of the 23-24 budget from various department heads as well as City Manager Mark Whitfield and Finance Director Lou Vitola. Council was presented with a balanced budget totaling over $59 million.
“We did have one meeting and I basically challenged all the department heads and said either you cut or I will,” Whitfield said. “They all went back and relooked at their numbers and really looked at where there may have been things double counted and really tried to pare everything down so Lou and I did not have to make any cuts.”
Much of the increase was due to increased personnel costs. In addition, the budget includes a significant amount of capital improvements, including streets, parks, water and sewer. The budget includes an increase in property taxes which include debt service for the new police station as well as to cover operating costs. The proposed increase would change the rate per $100 of assessed value from $0.49275 to $0.546, 9.7 percent higher.
“For the average Milford home with an assessed value of $147,000, the increase will be $5.81 per month, or $70 per year,” Whitfield said. “No portion of the property tax increase is unscheduled or emerging suddenly from the inflationary operating cost environment. Rather, the proposed movement in the property tax is rooted in City Council’s push for a structurally balanced budget as outlined in the strategic plan along with the voter-approved referendum to construct the new police facility.”
In addition to the increase in property tax, Whitfield stated that water rates would increase about 53 cents a month, sewer increases will be about $2 a month, electric $1.21 a month, and trash $2.20 a month. This would bring the total increase for a home appraised at $147,000 to $11.75 a month or $141 per year.
Just five years ago, the city’s budget was $42.8 million which reflects an increase in the city budget of 28 percent. Based on a summary provided by Whitfield, there has been in an increase in general fund expenses of 12.1 percent, in water fund expenses of 4.8 percent, in sewer fund expenses of 21.3 percent, in solid waste fund expenses of 11 percent and in electric funds of 7.5 percent, totally a 9.9 percent increase in overall expenses from last year. The budget also includes a 2.5 percent increase in base pay for non-union employees as well as step increases that could be as much as 3 percent per step. Healthcare premiums also rose by 9.4 percent.
During the fourth night of the hearings, council asked many questions related to personnel costs, questioning if processes could be streamlined to reduce those costs. One position requested by the city clerk’s office was discussed extensively with council questioning if a third position was needed or there could be cross-training among other employees to cover some of the duties. After much discussion, council decided to leave the new position in the budget as a placeholder with further discussion when the budget came up for vote.
“The budget is balanced using additional transfers from utility accounts,” Whitfield stated. “While the transfers are defensible, continuing to rely on utility accounts may result in increases in utility rates, making it financially less attractive to reside or maintain a business in the city. Council should consider setting limits on the transfer amounts.”
In addition to increases in funding for city operations, the budget includes funding for various non-profit organizations as well. The Milford Museum could receive $40,000, up from $35,500, an increase of 12.7 percent. DMI is slated to receive $50,000, a 5.3 percent increase while the library could see $28,000, an increase of 4.7 percent. The Milford Armory could see $25,000, an increase of 156 percent. Community festivals were included at a cost of $70,000, the same as in prior years while Carlisle Fire Company will receive $205,000, the same as last year.
Council will vote on the budget at their June 12 regular meeting.
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