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Hamden Council Passes Budget, Sets Mill Rate

Chief Administrative Officer Curt Balzano Leng, left, speaks with Councilman Michael Colaiacovo before the Legislative Council's budget vote.
Chief Administrative Officer Curt Balzano Leng, left, speaks with Councilman Michael Colaiacovo before the Legislative Council's budget vote.
Taxes will be going up slightly more than originally thought under the $200 million budget the Town Council approved Wednesday night.

The new budget of $200,151,976 carries a mill of 38.9405 mills, which means property owners will pay $38.94 for every $1,000 of assessment. So an average home with an assessment of $200,000 will pay $7,788, or $38.94 x 200.

Currently the mill rate is 37.137, so for the 2012-13 fiscal year that tax bill was $7,426, and it will increase by $362 for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Taxes are due July 1, 2013 and Jan. 1, 2014.

The council unanimously approved the budget, but many weren't happy with it, especially with the snafu that arose recently over state Education Cost Sharing grant spending requirements that led to a $2.5 million last-minute shortfall.

The money, which comes from the state to help pay education costs, was included in the municipal budget erroneously. A compromise led to the BOE picking up half the shortfall and taxpayers the other half, which led to the mill rate increase over Mayor Scott Jackson's proposed 1.44 mill increase.

"This was the worst budget that has been sent down to us in 10 years," said Republican Councilwoman-at-Large Betty Wetmore. "I feel revenues are overinflated and departments are underfunded, especially police and fire."

The budget puts $13.5 million into the pension fund, but the crisis surrounding the fund remains, Wetmore said.

"Maybe behind closed doors it's being discussed but I don't know, " she said. "It's a huge problem that's not going to go away."

"To say the town's pension crisis is not being addressed is outrageous and inaccurate," Chief Administrative Officer Curt Balzano Leng said. "Mayor Jackson has made solving his town's pension crisis the number one priority: he increased retirement funding by $3.5 million in the approved budget, which is the largest one-year increase in the town's history, completed a comprehensive independent analysis by the Segal Company to advise us how to enact true comprehensive pension reform and he acted in his role as chairman of the Retirement Board and as mayor to reduce the annual pension cost of living increase paid to retired employees from the 3 percent given every year to the reduced number of 1.59 percent this year, which is the Consumer Price Index percentage increase that the pension ordinance allows the the town to mirror. No previous mayor in the history of the town has taken such an action." 

"Putting $13.5 million in the pension fund is not a complete solution," said Councilman Austin Cesare. "It's a first step in the right direction down a very long road."

"Yes, it's been a very difficult and messy process," said Councilman Al Gorman. "But it shows we are committed to working on the pension."

"These improvements follow the Segal plan for year one recommendation toward comprehensive pension reform that have immediate financial impact and an estimated overall plan savings in the tens of millions for Hamden's pension," Leng said.

The state needs to hear the message that the town needs a more equitable share of ECS money, he said, because it's homeowners who are paying the price.

Now that budget season is over, the council will continue to monitor how it is spent, council president Judi Kozak said.

"We are going to scrutinize spending that every dime is spent how it's supposed to be spent," she said.

Thomas Alegi May 16, 2013 at 12:07 AM
Council president Judi Kozak said. "We are going to scrutinize spending that every dime is spent how it's supposed to be spent,” Ms. Kozak as Council president if you had implemented what you just preached, in the past, maybe Hamden would be in a better financial position today. "Hindsight is always better than foresight” But in this case Hindsight and Foresight are costly to the sum of $200,151,976 dollars.
JimK May 16, 2013 at 09:01 AM
"Taxes will be going up slightly more than originally thought" OH BULL****. They already knew EXACTLY what they were going to do. They lied to avoid scrutiny and outrage. Of course, Hamden residents will elect these liars and thieves over and over and over again. You want to know why Hamden is worse now than ever before? Because the smart citizens are leaving as soon as they get an opportunity.
Shaun Harris May 16, 2013 at 09:30 AM
So now I have to come out of my pocket $650 or more a month or $30+ more a month to pay taxes on my land and my house. Enough is enough with squeezing the citizens of this town. Just as I expected Hamden jumped on the bandwagon of raising it's fees just as the oil company, electric, phone, etc etc etc ..we are almost to the point of working to pay everyone bills with nothing left to live on. Geez I can't even get a street light on my street because it's to dark and it is encouraging thieves. My cars have been broken into at least 6 times in the last 2 years, you have people parking near my driveway in the dark doing whatever. You have about 5 police trying to service this whole town at night which is crazy. Maybe you should have cut some salaries ... anyway, I'm not happy ...the citizen's of this town are not happy.
LINDA May 16, 2013 at 11:09 AM
I think all of you are missing the point here. It will not cost anymore money to have police be more visable in some parts of town with these problems. These kids on bikes at 2am in the morning have no parents to keep them inside. Also most bike up from New Haven looking for trouble. Police presents asking them where they are from and what they are doing here at 2am all the time might drive them back to New Haven.
Thomas Alegi May 16, 2013 at 12:14 PM
No one is missing the point, which is the Legislative Council is being led by foolish people who have no idea of finance. I think for many reasons, anyone who wants to run for political office here in Hamden should be required to make their IRS documents available for public review, as so many other towns do in this nation. This way the taxpayers and voters of Hamden could see if the person running for political office has an understanding of proper financial practices.
Linda C May 16, 2013 at 02:42 PM
Only ones who be benefiting from the councils decision, is the local real estate agents! EXCELLENT JOB MAYOR JACKSON! YOU HAVE SINGE HANDILY PUSHED TAX PAYERS BACKS SO HARD AGAINST THE WALL ,MOST WILL BE FORCED TO SELL. After a lifetime in Hamden I can sadly say I'm ashamed of telling anyone where I live. A town filled with crime, shoddy services and a Mayor who couldn't possibly careless about Hamden or it's residents. He has proved that time and time again by blatantly going against the will of the taxpayers, rather than make the overpaid directors work within their budgets. House for sale by owner!
J D C May 16, 2013 at 07:36 PM
The horses are out of the barn, its on fire and the bucket brigade is stuck in traffic! EIGHT HUNDRED a month for WHAT? LOL I'm outty shortly, screw this. I'll say it again, what are you going to do Jax when all the bread winners leave?
J D C May 16, 2013 at 07:43 PM
Realize we pay possibly the highest taxes of any designated "town" in this country. THE COUNTRY! ROFLMFAO
George Levinson May 18, 2013 at 01:14 PM
Another 4.9% tax increase. This town is bizarre! If my math is correct, the Board of Education gets an increase of 350K even though the state contribution has been reduced by 2.5 Million. That means Hamden taxpayers are forking over an extra 2.85 Million just for the schools. When will we ever start paying for performance, not just longevity? The average teacher is paid 80K for a 37 week job. The board's teacher spending per student is 25% higher than the state average. Come on people, get real! Betty Wetmore is unconscious if she thinks police and fire are underfunded. These guys are overpaid and hugely over-benefitted, particularly regarding pension. Betty also moved to give $300,000 more to the school budget. I just don't get it.
Linda C May 18, 2013 at 02:38 PM
George did you happen to see the Register's story on Hamden's Budget May 15th 2013? If you read it, it seems to be saying that the monies from the State of course had criteria for receiving it. Criteria like Teacher Evaluations, and that these were not met, because they were UNKNOWN TO THE MAYOR, COUNCIL AND THE BOE!! REALLY? One would think if this funding is so important for the level of education they reach for here in Hamden, that SOMEONE would have read the fine print and made sure everything necessary was done to receive this money. NOT HERE IN HAMDEN!!! WHY? BECAUSE RULE OF THUMB IS, THAT IF THEY SCREW UP, JUST STICK IT TO THE TAX PAYERS!! Not only are they coming up short for the budget and socking it to the tax-payers. They are going to be holding yet ANOTHER LOTTERY AND OFFERING ANOTHER RETIREMENT INCENTIVE PACKAGE!!!!! WHERE DO THEY GET OFF? WE'VE SEE HOW THESE INCENTIVES WORK - THEY PAY PEOPLE TO LEAVE AND THEN FILL EVERYONE OF THE VACANT POSITIONS ALL OVER AGAIN!!!! TOTALLY MISSING THE POINT!! THESE PEOPLE HAVE TO BE OPERATING ON THE BORDER OF TOTAL INCOMPETENCE AND IMPEACHMENT OF THEM ALL, SHOULD BE THE TAXPAYERS NEXT VOTE!!!!
Linda C May 18, 2013 at 02:39 PM
Here is the Article as it appeared in the Register! It truly is Embarrasing!! Article that appeared in the New Haven Register May 25, 2013: $2.5M hole in Hamden budget will mean bigger tax hike HAMDEN — Prior to the Legislative Council’s budget vote tonight, a last-minute $2.5 million hole in the town budget has been filled, but at a cost. However, top town and school officials met this week and came to an agreement that will help the town fund its projected budget shortfall next year. The projected $2.5 million shortfall is due to confusion over the state Education Cost Share grant, which is given to the town by the state for its operating budget to help with education costs. This year’s cost sharing grant increased $1.6 million from $23.9 to $25.6 million. The fact that the $1.6 million increase was tied to New Alliance District initiatives, including teacher evaluations, was unknown to the school board, the mayor’s office and Legislative Council. To make matters worse, last year’s $800,000 New Alliance grant, which is separate from the New Alliance tied to ECS money, was put directly into last year’s municipal operating budget. This year, the town thought it could be done - it couldn’t. Facing a $2.5 million hole on the town side of the budget, Mayor Scott Jackson and Superintendent of Schools Fran Rabinowitz sought to fix this problem by splitting the $2.5 million shortfall. Town and school officials decided this week that the $1.3 million state special education grant would go to the town budget. The Board of Education receives a special education excess grant from the state. Communities must fund special education costs to a certain point before they receive reimbursement from the state. Chief Administrative Officer Curt Leng said in addition to the $1.3 million made up by retaining the special education grant, the town was able to save $355,000 by refinancing debt and by shaving $130,000 from the medical insurance fund. The result of these efforts still leaves a $897,259 deficit, which will be covered through taxation. The original budget proposed by the mayor called for a 1.44 mill tax increase. The deficit caused by the Alliance-bound ECS funds adds 0.22 mill, and the council’s changes, which include $300,000 for the Board of Education and a $175,000 increase for police, adds another 0.20 mill. Which means the new proposed tax rate is 38.9 mills, or a property owner with a house assessed at $200,000 will pay $7,780 in property taxes next year, an additional $361. Rabinowitz said with the additional $1.6 million funds from the town, layoffs will be A retirement incentive package was offered and roughly 25 staff members accepted.

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