Debt costs expected to boost tax rate

Published: Friday, March 27, 2009
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

NORTH BRANFORD — The town is proposing a 2009-10 budget with a zero percent increase, but the tax rate is still projected to rise about 5.5 percent, due largely to debt incurred from several building projects.

The $11.8 million budget would cover town government operations. The school district is proposing a budget of $29.16 million, which is a roughly 2.8 percent increase from the 2008-09 budget.

The Town Council received the town and school budget proposals, totaling $45.71 million, last week and has not yet acted on them.

The council is scheduled to hold a workshop with a public input session April 6, as well as further workshops April 7 and 8.

The budget referendum this year is scheduled for May 12.

The budget for debt service is projected to increase to nearly $4.68 million in the next fiscal year, up from $3.76 million this year. That is due to construction work at North Branford Intermediate School, the town’s two libraries and on Reeds Gap Road, as well as open space acquisition and the installation of a new sewer at Stanley T. Williams and Totoket Valley elementary schools, Town Manager Richard Branigan said.

He noted that the cost of debt service is expected to increase again next year before leveling off at the higher rate for a few years and then decreasing.

North Branford Intermediate School is undergoing a “renovate as new” project, the Edward Smith Library recently reopened after an expansion and Atwater Memorial Library is due to undergo a similar renovation and expansion in the coming year.

“Debt service is kind of the key number — that’s a fixed cost,” Branigan said. “We’ve known that (was going to increase) for a while.”

With the current budget proposal, the property tax rate is expected to increase to $26.34 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Branigan said there were no major reductions in town services in the budget proposal. In order to keep funding at a steady level, he said, certain empty positions will not be filled, part-time positions have been reduced or eliminated and discretionary or travel expenses are being limited.

But the budget does rely on assumptions about levels of state funding, he added. The General Assembly is continuing to consider Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s budget proposal.

“There’s some fundamental hope and reliance that the state budget, the governor’s budget which includes a leveling of (Educational Cost Sharing) funding, that will continue and stay in place,” Branigan said. “If that doesn’t, then we have a new ball game.”

The April 6 budget workshop is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall. More information on the proposed budget is available on the town’s Web site at www.townofnorthbranfordct.com.

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