Questions recently asked that are relevant to the current budget conflict.
- Why not send out tax bills with last year’s mill rate and then send out supplemental bills when a mill rate is adopted?
- Many property owners pay their taxes with an escrow account provided by their mortgage provider. The mortgage banks will use the initial tax bill amount to calculate the tax payment paid to the Newtown tax collector. The supplemental tax bill will also be sent to the mortgage bank. Our previous experience with this process led to confusion with the mortgage banks because they had to recalculate the tax escrow payment. This led to late tax payments and liens placed on properties which led to angry tax payers. It took many months, staff and mailing costs to make the situation right for the affected property owners.
- We have 280 persons on the State elderly property tax credit program. We will have to hold those tax bills until we get an adopted mill rate. The State will not calculate the tax credit with last year’s mill rate (they require the adopted mill rate).
- The resulting supplemental bills for personal property taxes will be very small amounts. It is the tax collectors policy not to send out tax bills less than $3 because it costs more to process and collect. These amounts will be collected if we wait for an adopted mill rate. Otherwise these small amounts add up to significant amounts which would result in a loss of tax revenue to Newtown.
(Per Carol Mahoney, Tax Collector, and Robert Tait, Finance Director)
- Are salaries for Town workers included in any projects that are bonded?
The answer to this is unequivocally NO. Bonds for projects specify very clearly what can be funded by those monies. Salaries for town workers are NEVER included in that bond issue. Sometimes, as with the Animal Control Facility project currently underway, the amount of money approved by the town government for bonding is insufficient for the whole project. When that happens, public works personnel or parks and recreation department have to take on some of the tasks, such as site work. The salaries for these workers are always paid out of the approved town budget and are never part of bonded costs.
- What actions has the town taken to reduce overhead?
The Town has reduced operational costs by eliminating employees, deferring/delaying necessary expenditures, and seeking lowest cost for all services and commodities such as fuel, electricity, etc. Director of Human Resources Carole Ross reports that Town employees in 2008 numbered 174. Current staffing is at 164. Most recently, the BoS reduced the PD by 3 positions, PW by 1 position, the Tax office by 2 positions and Land Use by 1.5 positions. Further, the BoS eliminated the contract for private management of Fairfield Hills. More detail is available for any interested party.
- How much do we pay for salt per ton? Do we have a stockpile? Can we further reduce that budget line?
Newtown uses treated salt, as does most of Connecticut, because of the environmental impact of salt/sand on our roads that then leaches into soils and waterways. We are in consortia of approximately 60 other towns in order to get best price in volume discounts. Our price per ton is $80.37. We have an inventory of tonnage left from our very mild winter of 2011-2012. The budget line for salt for this upcoming winter is $100,000 less than what was spent in 2010-2011. Hopefully, the inventory of salt will help us get through this coming winter season without having to make additional purchases beyond what is budgeted. Calendar year usage is as follows: 2009 – 5221 tons; 2010 – 4866 tons; 2011 – 4786 tons and 2012 year to date – 1419 tons.