Westbrook budget passed, mill rate drops to 20.76
By Eric O’Connell/Zip06.com • 05/12/2022 12:44 PM EST
On May 9, Westbrook voters overwhelmingly voted to support the proposed city budget of $31,907,606 for 2022-23, a $629,309 or 2% increase in spending. The mill rate was set at 20.76 mills, a reduction of 4.24 mills or 17.0%.
The proposed total budget is made up of a city budget and an education budget. The city budget is proposed at $13,146,326 (an increase of $380,357 or 3.0%) and the education budget is proposed at $18,761,280 (an increase of $248,952 or 1. 8%).
The budget vote was done by voice vote at the town meeting, so the exact number of results cannot be identified, but the overwhelming majority of meeting attendees voted to approve the budget.
In addition to the proposed budget, citizens also adopted a five-year capital plan. This vote was also taken orally and received little or no objection.
Major items in the capital plan for fiscal year 2022-23 include five-year IT projects, including bringing fiber optic service to City Hall, a harbor patrol and harbor commission boat, and $125,000 for design and engineering so that a potential new community center can be presented to residents. Other elements include funding for paving, sidewalks and pier replacement projects.
Following the adoption of the budget, the thousandth rate was set at 20.76 by the Finance Council. According to Chairman Paul Winch, additional revenue was received from the state which enabled the board to reduce the rate per mill from an earlier projection of 20.79 to 20.76.
Despite the lower tax rate, residents may still face a higher tax bill.
“Since this is a year of reassessment, it’s hard to say exactly what this will mean for taxes, as many residents have seen their assessments go up from last year,” the director explained. Finance, Donna Castracane. “I can tell you that the mill rate of 20.76 is a 17% decrease from the current year mill rate of 25.00.”
Castracane warned that it was difficult to predict the tax intake, as residents saw their assessments affected at different rates by the reassessment.
The increase in the city’s budget can be attributed in part to the inclusion of a third full-time police officer, as well as “the continuation of the contract with an outside company for zoning work, as well as the estimated increases health insurance due to rising costs,” Castracane said.
Unlike neighboring towns Clinton and Old Saybrook, Westbrook passed its budget by town hall instead of a referendum. This has been the case for six years, but in 2021 the city actually held a referendum. First manager John Hall explained to Harbor News earlier in 2022, “people weren’t really coming together because of COVID, so rather than having people in one room, we had a referendum.”
However, less than 100 people turned out to vote last year and the Board of Selectmen opted to return to town meeting style.
Hall said, “I am very pleased the budget has passed. I think it’s a very fair and responsible budget and properly funds all of our services and needs,” Hall said.