The 2012-2013 budget cycle officially came to a close Monday night as the Greenwich Board of Estimate and Taxation unanimously approved a 2.75 percent tax increase.
The increase means that property owners will see their tax bills rise from 10.1 mills per $1,000 of assessed valuation to 10.3 mills, which will cover the overall $404.1 million town and school budgets for the 2012-2013 fiscal year that begins July 1.
The budget is the first in town history to break the $400 million mark and represents a 3.45 percent increase over the current budget of $390.7 million. It includes $358 million for operating expenditures and fixed expenses such as employee benefits, plus $46 million for capital projects. It also assumes $36.6 million in bonding for capital projects. by the 230-member Representative Town Meeting (RTM).
Before the vote, there wasn't any support for a last-minute motion by Democrat Jeffrey Ramer to peg the tax increase to 3.5 perecent. Ramer lobbied his fellow board members to ramp up the increase as a means to prevent sticker shock in future budgets.
Ramer called his proposal a "mill rate smoothing," meaning that future tax increases through at least 2015 would be stablized at 3.5 percent and help cover anticipated costs of the cleanup of contaminated soil at Greenwich High School and the construction of a fire house in northwest Greenwich.
BET Chairman Michael Mason said approving a larger tax increase was disingenious.
"... What I said to the RTM is that we will tell people in advance what we plan on doing, that we are transparent," Mason said. "The BET has a debt policy, a fund balance policy, and a finance model to hold bottom line. … I wouldn’t support this (because) our budget guidelines is that we told the public that there would be a 2.75 percent increase. I wish I could support it but I can't.
Ramer's motion was defeated by a 1-10 vote.
Moments later, Ramer's joined the board in a unanimous vote to approve the 2.75 percent tax hike.
Despite the close of this budget cycle, the BET already plans to begin the process for the 2013-14 fiscal year with an organizational meeting May 31.