Property taxes will increase slightly less than a mill — by 3.1 percent — under the $132.6 million budget approved by the common council Thursday and the school board will receive $72.55 million — $1.8 million more than proposed by the mayor for the 2012-13 fiscal year.
A mill equals $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property values.
The Democratic caucus prepared an extensive document with changes to Mayor Dan Drew’s budget recommendations, most notably the education budget, pension fund and contribution to the general fund.
The only individual who spoke up during the public session was former Mayor Sebastian N. Giuliano, who urged the council to fully fund the pension.
“If you make an exception this time, the exception has a way of becoming the rule. Once you open that door, it’s very difficult to close it. I would suggest you don’t go down that road.”
Democratic council members went to great pains to defend their amended budget, saying they came up with a sound alternative during tough economic times.
Councilmen Gerald Daley and Todd Birch both said the members of the public who turned at the last budget workshop to plead for fully funding the board of education’s budget and who said, “please raise my taxes,” to improve the city’s underperforming schools impressed them.
“All in all this is a very sound budget. I urge the council to accept it,” Daley said.
Majority leader Councilman Tom Serra said members were faced with difficult choices. “We’ve got flat funding from the state, no grand list growth [mostly because of the loss of Aetna], the increased cost of insurance and raises to employees who deserve them because they’ve gotten zeros for a number of years.”
The four Republicans on the council , something that Daley said had not been done in many, many years.
Councilwoman Kleckowski warned against the dangerous precedent of increasing the school budget, citing Connecticut state statute, which requires school budgets to be funded at or more than the previous year’s.
“I’ve been positively clear and consistent on the board of education, given the additional $1 million given to them last year and the $1.8 million this year is too risky a venture,” Kleckowski said. “Next year, we’ll be starting at $1.8 million higher. There’s no way to regress.”
Councilwoman Linda Salafia agreed.
“I can’t go for an increase to the board of education budget. If I could vote [on portions of the proposal] individually, it would be great. I don’t think we should be giving them more money, somewhere that money is there. They were able to come up with more last year.”
At the conclusion, Drew was satisfied with the outcome and said he was pleased that although there were many conflicting views, everyone expressed them effectively and without rancor.
Drew presented his $132.3 million budget April 2 to the . The $132,270,972 spending package for the 2012-13 fiscal year represented a 1.6 percentage increase over . His proposed budget would have meant a one mill increase in the tax rate — an annual increase of $165, or $13.75 monthly, for the average homeowner with an house valued at $235,000.
Last year's lowered taxes 1.1 percent and approved $70.6 million for Middletown Public Schools.