NEWINGTON â€“ The town and schoolsâ€™ $125.7 million Budget for 2020-21 has moved forward, setting the new mill rate to 39.28.
The .17 decrease in the mill rate is notable in that it represents the first time since 2015 the annual budget adoption has resulted in a lower tax rate.
â€śI am very pleased we were able to decrease our mill rate slightly and really try to be conscious of what our residents need from us at this difficult time,â€ť Mayor Beth DelBuono said as the council finalized the budget at a special meeting Tuesday night. â€śThereâ€™s going to be a lot of challenges ahead but I think this is a good first step for us as a council in a unified way to do this for our residents.â€ť
The Board of Educationâ€™s approved allotment was $76.76 million. The council also passed a memorandum allowing the schools to retain 1.79 percent of their requested budget in a non-lapsing account for future use if needed.
â€śIâ€™m really pleased weâ€™re able to help the Board of Ed achieve what they want to achieve without raising taxes,â€ť the mayor pointed out. â€śI think itâ€™s a nice compromise and Iâ€™m really grateful the Board of Education and Dr. Brummett were willing to work with us on this.â€ť
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Maureen Brummett and Town Manager Keith Chapman were both praised by councilors for their efforts to present budgets that were especially fiscally responsible during a challenging economic reality.
â€śI was struck by the cooperation of all parties to get this done,â€ť Majority leader Tim Manke commented. â€śThe extra time we had to put in to do this in this mannerâ€¦it took more effort and more use of technology than were probably use to. (This budget) keeps our taxes at a neutral rate but also tries to keep and improve some of our services, I think itâ€™s a win-win all around.â€ť
â€śGiven the fiscal realities that weâ€™re in, not only what we know but what we donâ€™t know, I think this is a very responsible budget for the times were facing,â€ť Deputy Mayor Gail Budrejko said. â€śWe are joining other communities like New Britain, West Hartford and Middletown who have passed budgets without any tax increases because they know they need to ease the financial burden on taxpayers.â€ť
Budrejko went on to point out that economic predictors are not looking hopeful for the year ahead, and therefore the town canâ€™t necessarily rely on federal or state grants for support as it has in past years.
Councilors voted unanimously to approve the spending plan.
In his original presentation to the council, Chapman offered a historical perspective that led staff and elected officials to approach their negotiations with particular consideration. He shared statistics revealing that the townâ€™s grand list rose by 59 percent in the last 20 years while average home taxes have increased 112 percent.
Town and elected officials moved forward with this in mind, taking careful measure to keep spending at a minimum while still maintaining services residents rely upon.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at email@example.com.