The Board of Finance has scheduled a special meeting to set the towns mill rate in an attempt to buy time to better see the impacts of the state budget crisis.
The Board has a regular meeting scheduled for Monday, May 22, which would have been used to set the towns mill rate. However, with new proposals and tax plans coming from Hartford almost daily, a special meeting has been set for May 30, allowing the town an additional week to set the mill rate.
By law, according to the town charter, the mill rate must be set by June 1 of each year.
Town officials have been watching in earnest the state budget and its impact on Branford. Earlier this week, Governor Malloy released a plan that eliminates all education funding to town, including special education funds. Since then, both Democrats and Republicans have released plans, although both contain aspects that would impact Branford.
The RTM passed a budget last week that included the impacts of Malloy’s first budget proposal, which was already costly to Branford taxpayers. Without the state impacts, Branford budget would have seen about a 2% increase in spending and a 1.5% increase in the mill rate.
Instead, Malloy’s impact increased the tax rate over 5%. If the latest version of his budget were accounted for, the increase would be well over 7%.
Still, Branford has positioned itself to be ahead of the state budget, and more so than neighboring towns who largely ignored Malloy’s proposal. First selectman Jamie Cosgrove, finance chair Jim Finch and the Board of Finance, led by chairman Joe Mooney, made the decision to take a more proactive approach to the budget due to the state uncertainty. They also added a wrinkle: if the state impacts did not come to fruition, the plan calls for the town to use those funds to pay down debt, offsetting potential increases in later years.
While the state most likely will not have a budget in place by May 30, it does give the town time to further weigh the evidence and attempt to garner which way the state may be leaning. While the towns spending has been set by the RTM, the Board of Finance can use the state information to adjust the amount of funds taken from the undesignated fund balance, essentially cash on hand.
Currently, the total coming from the fund is 2.8 million dollars. Any increase in that total would lower the mill rate passed on to Branford residents.