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Sunday, May 26 News

Board of Finance sets mill rate with 1.63% tax hike

FAIRFIELD — In a move to give taxpayers a “break”, the Board of Finance approved a mill rate lower than what was originally proposed in earlier stages of the budget cycle.

The tax rate set for the Fiscal Year 2020 comes in at 26.79 mills, which represents a 1.63 percent hike from the current rate.

A mill rate of 26.79 means a tax payment of $26.79 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. Under the new mill rate next fiscal year, a house with an assessed value of $500,000 would have a tax bill of $13,395.

Republican Board of Finance member Chris DeWitt proposed the 26.79 mills tax rate at the May 9 meeting.

“Based on our stronger and higher than expected collection rate along with our surpluses ($3 million after transfers) leads me to believe we’re in a position to give maybe a little more break to the taxpayers,” DeWitt said.

Last week, the Representative Town Meeting passed the town budget at $316.4 million or a 3.68 percent increase in expenses from the current year. Then, Chief Finance Officer Bob Mayer said the expected mill rate would amount to 26.81 mills — a 1.71 percent tax hike.

There are still clouds on the horizon after the budget approval and established mill rate.

“The collection rate may or may not be adjusted and we have to compensate for (certain) items,” Mayer said at the May 9 meeting.

The chief finance officer reminded the finance board about upcoming fiscal decisions from Hartford including shifting some of the teacher pension costs to towns, which would mean a potential $700,000 expense for Fairfield.

“We do not know if that will make it through but it’s a risk factor,” Mayer added, noting the item has passed the committee-level in Hartford.

First Selectman Mike Tetreau has also expressed concern regarding the pension costs which would escalate year to year.

In a press release May 13, Tetreau said that the $700,000 was not in the recently approved budget and, if towns were to pay for the pension, this would force the town to make cuts to services.

According to Tetreau, the expense line for this item would grow from $700,000 to $1.4 million next year and $2.1 million the year after.

“It looks like that is alive and well in the state budget. I’m working with other First Selectmen and mayors looking at getting that out in the community and telling our state delegation to oppose this,” Tetreau said in an interview last Friday.

The recommended tax rate went down from an original 26.95 mill rate recommendation — or a 2.24 percent increase — as the budget was reviewed by the three different town bodies.

Back in February, First Selectman Mike Tetreau had recommended a 2.24 percent tax hike in his proposed budget. The Board of Finance, in April, made nearly a million-dollar adjustments and lowered the recommended tax rate to a 1.9 percent increase.

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Finally, the Representative Town Meeting — in a 29 to 10 vote — approved a $316.4 million town budget that came with a 1.71 percent tax hike.

Among the department most hit by budget cuts were the Board of Education and the Department of Public Works which both saw $700,000 in reductions.

humberto.juarez@hearstmediact.com

Humberto J Rocha|Reporter

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