Farmington Town Manager Kathy Eagen’s proposed budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year will be the topic of a public hearing Tuesday night. The proposed $90.02 million budget reflects a 1.87 percent increase (or $1,685,596) over the current year.
The increase comes in below targets set by the Town Council early in the budget process, when the council directed both the town manager and the Board of Education to come in with an increase of 2-3 percent.
Eagen wrote in her budget summary that she was guided by both the budget target and the council’s directive to maintain existing services.
The Board of Education also met its target, proposing a 1.96 percent increase over the current year while also adding the equivalent of 9.7 fulltime teachers, preparing for state mandated changes to curriculum and testing and adding computing devices for students.
The modest increase comes after Farmington went through a revaluation of all real estate in town, which showed a decrease in the grand list of $300 million. To compensate, the mill rate would increase by 2.17 mills or 9.89 percent.
Eagen breaks down the implications of her budget proposal into the tax assessment for the average homeowner (one with a home assessed at $232,074). Under her proposed budget, the average homeowner would pay $5,585.23, a decrease of $84.69 or 1.49 percent.
“We didn’t have to raise the mill rate that high and because expenditures were low, most people are going to see a tax decrease of 1.94 percent. What happened is the commercial properties held their values well, so we didn’t see that big shift that usually occurs [with revaluation]. If you look at some of the other towns, their grand list decreased more than ours did. Also, our revenue we actually saw a little bit of an increase," Eagen explained.
Eagen noted that not all homeowners will see a decrease - that would depend on how their property value changed in comparison to others'.
The town also dropped $730,991 (9.36 percent) from its debt service.
Town Council Chairman Jeff Hogan said he is especially pleased with Eagen’s budget, considering the economic climate at the state level and in surrounding towns.
“In the context of what is going on around us, where the state is literally trying to come in and grab money from well-run municipalities and the state continues to kick the can when it comes to infrastructure and meeting its obligations to its own employees… I’m thrilled and proud of the fact that we have a budget here that really addresses our needs nicely,” Hogan said.
Unlike the state, the town manager's budget is fiscally responsible, Hogan said, allowing the town to meet its obligations by increasing funding to accounts that have been chronically underfunded (primarily the public works and fire departments), by increasing capital funding to maintain the town’s infrastructure and by significantly increasing the pension allocation due to new assumptions.
“We had an analysis done and they came back and recommended a change in the assumption used for the pension account — to go with a lower assumption on the return of our money,” Hogan explained. “We are putting in a large chunk of money to meet our obligation … This has a long-term impact because that keeps us on track in a very transparent way.”
Hogan also said he wasn’t surprised by the results of revaluation, even though the impact was predicted to be much worse and, in many neighboring towns, it was.
“Commercial values went down by 1.7 percent, which is just remarkable considering the economy. I don’t attribute it to luck. I think Farmington is a really great place for businesses to locate and remain. We’ve maintained the value of our commercial properties and many of our larger taxpayers have added on to their investments in town,” he said.
Hogan also credited the hiring of Economic Development Coordinator Courtney Hendricson with promoting the town and attracting businesses.
The public hearing will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday night in the Town Council chambers at Town Hall. Eagen will present her budget and the public will be given an opportunity to speak. Tuesday’s meeting kicks off a series of budget workshops outlined here.
To see Eagen's budget, click here.