|FEBRUARY 3, 2012 --
Preparing the annual budget and more importantly, having the budget pass by the taxpayers in the town, is, by far, the most crucial part of town politics.
Towns cannot plan their budgets properly until the state budget has passed. Too often, towns must prepare and pass their annual budgets without knowing exactly what will be coming to them from the state.
In Sterling, as I am sure in other towns across the state, we are already working on preliminary budget plans for the coming year and by May, if possible, we like to be ready for the first town budget hearing.
Each town depends on “Town Aid Road” monies. This is allocated by the state for the towns to use for highway and bridge improvements. For example, towns can repave roads, repair drainage systems and improve bridges. The town of Sterling last year received nearly $90,000.00. We have 47 miles of town roads to maintain and, for Sterling, like all towns across our state, this money does help.
Towns also receive “Manufacturing” funds. This is dollars in lieu of exempted manufacturing equipment. By state statute, some manufacturing equipment is exempted from property taxes. Last year, for example, Sterling received $49,000.00 in tax relief through its small “manufacturing” equipment exemptions.
Local capital improvements monies (also from the state) is money that the state holds and towns can use for one time, non-recurring, capital expenditures. In the town of Sterling, we are typically annually allotted about $40.000.00. This money can be left, to accumulate, for larger projects. We, in Sterling,have used this money, in the past, to build our existing town garage, dog pound, sand and salt shed and to build bridges. This summer, Sterling has another bridge mandated for replacement by the state bridge inspection team. We will use our local capital improvement monies to fund this necessary construction project.
The mill rate in each town is calculated using a formula that includes both state revenues and monies raised by taxes. Last year, for example, Sterling received from the state $185,849.00 for the budget of the Selectmen and $3,406,460.00 for the education portion.
We had to raise, through taxes, $1,426,829.00 for the Selectmen’s budget and $7,653,643.00 for education. Our mill rate was set last year at 21.11; without state aid, it would have been 39.85! In Sterling, the budget of the Selectmen includes the school buses. Our school also applies for grant monies to the state board of education and in the last fiscal year, Sterling received $877,812.00 in grant dollars.
Towns would certainly have a difficult time without assistance from the state; still, all monies do come, ultimately, from each of us.
I hope that every voter makes a special effort to attend the budget meetings in his/her town; and then, please, go vote on the budget. It is important to know how your dollars are being spent!
In addition to being a member of the CSG Legislative Committee, Russell Gray is First Selectman for the Town of Sterling, CT.