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Branford’s Board of Finance (BOF) is reviewing a proposed $101 million town budget, with a 4.6 percent increase sending it over the $100 million mark for the first time. The BOF began its budget workshops with a meeting on Mon. March 18. View the proposed budget on-line at http://bit.ly/11nUUAM
As proposed, the $100.962 million bottom line would increase Branford’s mill rate from 24.95 to 26.10. The BOF, followed by Representative Town Meeting (RTM) will work to dial the numbers back before a final budget is adopted for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2013. Based on past budget processes, it’s likely the final budget figure won’t exceed a 2.5 percent to 3 percent increase.
Like many other municipalities, Branford’s proposed budget also doesn’t factor in Gov. Dannell Malloy’s move to eliminate town-levied motor vehicle taxes, which would leave a hole in town budgets while creating an estimated $21 million in revenue to the state (as residents would no longer be able to claim a credit for their vehicles on state income tax returns). Municipalities will have little choice but to raise property taxes to compensate for the loss of income.
Branford’s total town government budget is up by $4 million to $40.3 million, 6.3 percent above the current budget. This year’s Board of Education (BOE) total proposed budget is $52.2 million, an annual increase of 2.6 percent.
Both union and non-union salary increases are among the reasons for the bigger bottom line. The town’s added new unions, including the town employee administrative group and the school paraprofessionals. One seemingly remarkable salary request is a 13 percent increase for the police chief’s pay, bringing the pay over the $100,000 mark. Two percent raises are being requested for the Fire Chief and Deputy Chief. But at the BOF meeting Monday night, it was explained the Police Commission recommended the Police Chief's significant raise to bring the salary in-line with other area police chief salaries, and to reward Chief of Police Halloran for excellent service since taking over the role.
Personnel requests are also adding to the bottom line, including hiring a School Resource Officer (SRO) to man Walsh Intermediate School at a cost of nearly $69,000 per year. That salary, if approved by the BOF, would be added to the currently-proposed police budget. Beyond that, the police budget’s “Special Detail” line is increased by $150,000 or 37.5 percent over last year.
The town government’s contingency fund jumped by 66 percent, adding over $300,000 year-to-year, to set the fund at $895,925. Operating expenses and capital project expenses are increased by $2.3 million, up 6.2 percent. Branford will pay out $7.486 million in debt service (bond repayments) in 2013-14, an increase of 3.2 percent.
Budget workshops are taking place this week. Final cuts recommended by the BOF, will be passed on to the RTM for further review. The BOF’s budget vote will take place Mon. March 25 (Special Meeting 6 p.m. followed by regular meeting 7 p.m.), at Branford Fire Headquarters, 45 North Main St.