Final property tax increase: 3.41%

CORRECTION: This post has been updated to reflect Republican Jerry Bosak’s vote against the mill rate.

STAMFORD – The Board of Finance voted to approve a $447 million gross tax levy Tuesday night, setting the average mill rate at 23.73 mills and the average tax increase for next fiscal year at 3.41 percent.

Independent Kathleen Murphy and Republican Jerry Bosak voted against the mill rate setting, which they said amounted to a tax increase for Stamford drivers. The measure includes a 2.75 percent automobile mill rate increase, proposed by Democrat John Louizos, which will generate an additional $700,000 in revenue for city coffers.

“It’s a tax increase,” Murphy said.

The mill rate breakdown by taxing district is as follows:

District A: 24.04 mills
District B: 23.55 mills
District C: 22.67 mills
District C/S: 23.10 mills
Personal Property: 24.04 mills
Automobile: 27.25 mills

“I think the mill rate is a result of a collaborated, balanced effort to mitigate spending and provide the services that are necessary,” said Board of Finance Chairman Tim Abbazia.

The average mill rate jumped 33 percent compared to this fiscal year due to the 2012 property revaluation, which delivered a $5.5 billion hit to Stamford’s Grand List and shrank the list of all taxable property in the city by 22.4 percent. The city’s total taxable assessment for residential real estate decreased by an average of 26 percent, while overall commercial property assessments fell 21 percent.

The finance board spent several hours finalizing the city’s revenue and reserve funds ahead of Tuesday’s vote. Members voted to set aside $6.25 million in the city’s contingency fund for unanticipated snow and storm expenses, legal claims and labor contract settlements. The contingency fund also includes funding for the Bartlett Arboretum and three volunteer fire departments, which saw a large portion of their budgets withheld during the budget process because the mayor and elected boards are unhappy with their operations.

In February, the Board of Education unanimously passed a $245.8 million operating budget, which Mayor Michael Pavia is prevented under city Charter from cutting or altering. The spending package represented a $9 million — or 3.86 percent increase — over last fiscal year.

The mayor, who is not running for reelection, unveiled his final budget proposal in early March, calling for a 4.81 percent property tax increase to fund $495.8 million in operating expenses. The proposal did not include job or service cuts, unlike when Pavia first took office in 2010 and laid off 49 fulltime employees in order to institute the lowest property tax increase in 10 years. The mayor has since returned some funding to some outside government agencies and added 39 new positions.

The Board of Finance cut $2 million from the city’s operating and education budgets the following month, tentatively lowering the proposed property tax increase to 4.35 percent. Finance board members voted to cut $680,000 in education spending and also made reductions to Smith House and employee salaries. The board also trimmed $625,000 from the city’s $41.5 million capital projects budget.

On May 7 the Board of Representatives voted to approve a $211,648 operating cut, finalizing the city’s spending package at $493.2 million and tentatively lowering the property tax increase to 4.2 percent. The board also cut the Water Pollution Control Authority’s $25.8 million operating budget by $150,000, a reduction the facility’s Board of Directors can vote to accept or dispute.

Look for full coverage on the mill rate setting in Thursday’s Stamford Advocate.