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Finance Board OKs Tax Hike

The New Canaan Board of Finance unanimously passed a 1.75 percent increase to the town’s mill rate at its monthly meeting Tuesday night. This will help pay for the $118.92 million budget the town council passed a on April 15. An expected $110.87 million will come from general fund taxes, based on 97.5 percent payment.

The increase will move the town's mill rate from 13.351 in 2009-10 to 13.585 in 2010-11. This means that a resident whose home is valued at $500,000 can expect to pay about $117 more in property taxes. The town’s sewer fund mill rate was also increased 1.75 percent, moving to 0.611 percent.

First Selectman Jeb Walker, who is also the chairman of the Finance Board, said that the increase is the “smallest in the last 15 years,” and that he is “very comfortable” with it. “When you look at projections for the next three years and the economy around us, it is prudent to be at a level that leaves us a little room and doesn’t set the bar too low,” Walker said.

Board member Kathleen Corbet suggested a 1.5 percent increase, but the town’s Chief Financial Officer Gary Conrad said that number was too low to maintain a good fund balance. Even though Conrad expects 99 percent of taxes to come in, he said it is important to leave a cushion in case less does.

He did add, “history has shown people are current on taxes even in tough economic times,” but the town is still not at a point where it can reduce its fund balance by $2 million, which it would if the mill rate was set at 1.5 percent.

Also at the meeting the board approved line item transfers of $11,177 for repairs to the Nature Center, located on Oenoke Ridge, including the addition of smoke detectors, roof repairs and snow guards. A percentage of the funding will come from a federal government stimulus package.The board also approved a $7,500 boost to the Health and Human Services budget for this year for door-to-door, inter-town transit services for disabled residents. The board questioned whether the service, which provides transportation in and out of New Canaan to towns such as Norwalk and Stamford through the Norwalk Transit District, is being abused.

"I don’t see any abuse of the system at all, it is mostly our town’s young folks who go out of the area to work in Norwalk or Stamford,” said Carol McDonald, the director of town human services, adding that there are about 60 qualified residents and about 15 who consistently use the service.

Conrad also updated the board on this year’s year-to-date financial results. He said that the town has spent 77.45 percent of its budget to date and have a good shot of finishing in the black. On the revenue side he said, “overall, we will end up the year on the favorable side." There has been a large increase in conveyance revenue, up 223.87 percent from the predicted number, with $783,531 already collected, despite the harsh real estate market.

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