Despite a nearly 7-percent proposed increase in town spending, Middlefield First Selectman Jon Brayshaw said the average homeowner in Middlefield should expect a decrease in their property tax bills.
Brayshaw presented his to the town's Board of Finance on March 15 during a public hearing, where he formally recommended an increase in town spending from $4.21 million to $4.49 million.
"It's only pennies apart. We're basically holding," Brayshaw said about the impact the budget would have on taxpayers. Currently, the average property tax bill in Middlefield is $5,418 and would drop to $5,364 under the proposal.
Brayshaw pointed out that motor vehicle taxes — assessments of which increased by six percent — are not included in the number.
The selectman's budget proposal would increase the town's mill rate from 28.16 to 32.45. The increase, Brayshaw said, is due to last year's revaluation which resulted in a 12-percent decline in real estate values.
As he has done in the past, finance board member Bob Yamartino summed up any confusion over the calculation of assessment value, the mill rate and taxes.
"If [a homeowner's assessment] went down less than the town average you're going to pay a little more and if your's went down more than the town average you'll pay a little less," Yamartino said.
Middlefield finance director Joe Geruch, who Brayshaw gave credit for the final budget proposal, said last year's revaluation shifted the tax burden from homeowners to commercial property owners.
In his opening remarks to the finance board, Brayshaw said his budget proposal targets improvements to the town's infrastructure, including roads, drainage and buildings.
"If you ride around and look and you think about Middlefield some of our infrastructure is getting a little shabby," he said. Projects that are funded under the current proposal include installation of a new, above ground oil tank at the Community Center, as well as the installation of new roofs at both the Community Center and Town Hall. Parking lot repairs would also be made at both town owned buildings.
Some spending items came under scrutiny by the board and members of the public including a proposal to allocate $35,000 for parking lot repairs at the .
Chairman Lucy Petrella and member Rebecca Adams questioned whether the town should continue paying for capitol improvements at the library even though it is not owned by the town. Petrella said because the library is privately owned, Middlefield is unable to apply for grants that would help offset some of the costs.
"We are certainly not talking about not supporting the library. I think it's a way to support it that's a win-win for the taxpayers and the library and there might need to be some compromises both ways," Petrella said.
Following discussion over a proposal that would see the town to share technology services with Regional School District 13, resident Marianne Corona said she felt the town should be budgeting more than $1,000 for its website.
"It's terrible," Corona said. "We're supposed to be posting our minutes, that's not happening. The agendas aren't happening. We need to do something about the website. The website is the most important means of communication in the town."
The finance board is scheduled to meet tonight with members of the Board of Education to review the district's $36.23 million 2012-2013 budget proposal. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Community Center.
The finance board will spend the next two months reviewing the budget before sending it to a town vote on May 14.
"I think our work has just begun," Petrella said.