The $84.1 million budget for Fiscal 2024 in Middletown is finalized.
At a packed meeting Monday night in Town Hall, the Town Council voted unanimously to adopt new spending on everything from the schools, police, fire, public works and other town operations.
Totals from the town’s finance office showed the tax rate for Middletown resident is expected to be $12.59 per $1,000 of assessed value. That’s compared to $13.53 per $1,000 for nonresidents for those not participating in the Tiered Residential Tax Program. For commercial property owners, the proposed tax rate is $18.70 per $1,000.
Now that the budget has been okayed, tax bills are expected to be mailed in early September. If all goes according to plan, tax bills should arrive by the middle of September, with the first quarter tax payments expected to be due on Sept. 29.
Council President Paul M. Rodrigues said everyone could probably something they didn’t like in the new budget, but it was time to move forward.
“If we’re going to move forward and fix this thing, now is the time to do it…” Rodrigues said. “If we don’t do it now, it’s only going to create more problems next year and we’ll face a whole new set of challenges.”
Council Vice President Thomas Welch III agreed, saying despite some obstacles, it appeared everything financially was heading on the right course.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” Welch said. “The one thing I want you to understand is this is not going to fix itself this year. We have to work through it a bit.”
Councilman Christopher Logan said he rued raising taxes as much as the next person, but with inflation and other rising costs, something had to give.
“We’ve been very lucky in this town to have levy increases of less than 1 percent on a number of years and a number of occasions,” Logan said. “We can’t continue to fund the services that are necessary when inflation is up 20 percent…It doesn’t work out. The numbers don’t jive.”
Heading into this budget season, town officials warned it was going to be a challenging year.
Not only were wages — and the cost of almost everything else — on the rise, the schools were continuing to see a significant loss of revenues. The decommissioning of the regional special education program that Middletown schools were part of added new expenses as well.
Due to lost state aid on the school side and projected need for an open space bond, the town got permission to exceed the state’s 4 percent cap by close to $931,000 — or a little more than 20 cents on the total tax rate. A nickel on the tax rate equals approximately $180,000.
Figures showed about $446,000 was due to the loss in state educational aid from $8.5 million to $8.1 million. The remainder was to cover close to $485,000 payment for open space bond payments.
If the council okays the Fiscal 2024 budget, the School Department was expected to receive close to $46 million, including a $32 million contribution from the town. That contribution was up from close to $30 million in the Fiscal 2023 numbers — or about a 6 percent rise.
In related financial matters, the proposed sewer rate was expected to drop two cents in Fiscal 2024 to $17.19 per 1,000 gallons of use. However, due to an increase in forecasted usage of more than 2,200 gallons, the charge for the average home was expected to rise by about $37.
The budget for the town’s “Pay-As-You-Throw” curbside trash and recycling showed the enterprise program continued to work well. But because of surging costs and tipping fees to get rid of garbage at the Central Landfill in Johnston, the proposed annual fee to take part in the program was expected to go up to $160 — a $19 jump. If approved, it would be the first time the town increased the price of “Pay-As-You-Throw” in nine years.
As for the beach operations, town officials said the price of an annual parking pass was expected to rise to $80 for residents and $160 for nonresidents. The current seasonal parking fee of $70 for residents and $140 for nonresidents has been in place since Fiscal 2011 — or more than a decade.
Town officials said rising labor costs and extending the hours the beaches were staffed were contributing factors. Second and Third beaches are now opened from 8 am-6 pm daily through the Labor Day weekend.
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