Revaluation, drop in revenue take toll on Montville tax rate

Montville - Mayor Ronald K. McDaniel Jr. on Monday night delivered a budget proposal to the Town Council that calls for roughly an 8.7 percent increase in the tax rate.

And that's with a school budget that McDaniel proposed with no increase. The Board of Education had voted to recommend a $37.6 million school budget, a 2.72 percent increase.

McDaniel, who acknowledged he expects some pushback on the education budget, also included $638,200 in the overall budget for capital improvements.

The $55.7 million spending plan includes an $18.4 million general government budget, which is less than the current budget. If approved, the town budget would represent a 6.3-mill increase, bringing the overall tax rate to 29.3 mills.

A homeowner with property assessed at $200,000 would pay about $400 more in taxes.

McDaniel called the spending plan a "no frills" budget; the actual increase in spending is only two-tenths of 1 percent, he said. The tax increase is largely the result of a recent townwide revaluation of property that dropped the grand list of taxable property by nearly 15 percent as well as of significant reduction in other revenue.

"I have referred to this document as the Southwest Airlines of budgets," McDaniel said, referencing the airline's no-frills approach. "While it will help to continue to move us forward, it does so in a way that is as affordable as possible."

Town councilors largely praised the mayor's budget. Councilor Chuck Longton called the two-tenths of 1 percent increase in spending a "phenomenal achievement."

Councilor Dana McFee also said he was pleased and that he was expecting a tax-rate increase of 8 mills or more.

Last year's tax rate increased by less than 1 mill and cost a homeowner with property assessed at $200,000 roughly another $150 more in taxes.

According to the mayor's proposal, roughly 57 percent of the tax rate increase - 3.6 mills - is due to the revaluation of all taxable properties in town.

The bankruptcy and closure of AES Thames, the town's top taxpayer at $1.2 million, accounted for about 17 percent, or 1.1 mills, of the expected tax increase, as McDaniel said he does not expect any payment from the defunct power plant in the coming year.

Other lost revenue accounted for about 24 percent, or 1.5 mills, of the expected increase, McDaniel said. The town in the next fiscal year will also make the first $1.35 million payment on a bond taken out to cover the Rand-Whitney Containerboard settlement.

After the town and the company argued in court for years over how much Rand-Whitney should pay in sewage fees, the town was ordered to pay a court-ordered settlement of $11.7 million plus interest.

McDaniel's proposed budget anticipates a 98 percent tax collection rate. The mayor also stressed that the town is in the midst of contract negotiations with six of its unions.

There will be a public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday at Town Hall for residents to comment and ask questions on the education budget. A public hearing the next night at the same time and location will offer the same opportunity for the general government budget.

jeff.johnson@theday.com

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