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Berlin holds steady tax rate in final FY25 budget

Berlin council members approved a $14 million budget that includes funding for key projects such as a new public works facility, an employee step and grade system, and design guidelines last week.

Berlin council-budget

Berlin Fire Company President David Fitzgerald addresses the Berlin Mayor and Council last week during a budget public hearing.
Charlene Sharpe/OC Today-Dispatch

By Charlene Sharpe, Associate Editor

Elected officials approved a $14 million budget that includes funding for key projects such as a new public works facility, an employee step and grade system and design guidelines last week.

The Berlin Town Council voted 4-0 last Tuesday to approve the town’s Fiscal Year 2025 budget, which at $14 million is almost 24% higher than the current year’s budget. Council members said the spending plan would allow the town to accomplish several of its goals. 

“I think it’s pretty solid and a good look for fiscal year ’25,” Councilman Jack Orris said.

The town hosted its annual public hearing on the proposed budget during the council meeting. The spending plan, which was drafted by the mayor and staff and adjusted by elected officials during budget work sessions this spring, includes proposed revenues of $14,257,116, an increase of 23.8% over the current year. The budget includes a bond that will allow the town to build a new public works facility. 

As for the enterprise funds, the proposed electric department budget is $8.5 million, though $1 million of that is a bond for the town’s new AMI metering. The water department budget is proposed at $5.4 million, though $2 million of that is a transfer from reserves. The town’s sewer budget is proposed at $7.1 million with $2.2 million from reserves and the town’s stormwater budget is $1.3 million with $388,000 of that being a transfer from reserves.

The tax rate for the coming year is flat at $0.8275 per $100 of assessed valuation. For a $400,000 residence in Berlin, the annual tax bill at the current tax rate will be $3,310. The town’s net assessable real property base now stands at $551 million.

The only comment during the public hearing came from Berlin Fire Company President David Fitzgerald. He said the town was not meeting the funding request from the fire company for EMS operations. The town is providing $484,000, which is a $75,000 increase over the prior year’s funding, but about $100,000 less than requested.

“We appreciate the increase however it does not meet the proposal that was submitted,” he said.

Following closure of the public hearing, Orris said he felt good about the budget, as it did not include a tax increase for residents but had allowed the town to set up a step and grade system for its employees and had also allowed the town to provide more funding to the Berlin Fire Company. 

“It was a good team effort,” Mayor Zack Tyndall said. “We appreciate the hard work the finance team does.”

Councilman Steve Green said the budget was allowing the town to do a lot of good things. He said he supported the concept of incremental tax increases coming into elected office to avoid a repeat of the major tax increase five years ago, but hadn’t wanted to see residents charged more this year because the town’s property tax revenues had increased $300,000 by keeping the tax rate due to rising property values. Green said he also didn’t wanted a tax increase the same year the town was instituting a step and grade system.

“I think we have done a great job for our employees,” he said. “I didn’t want it to be looked at that we increased taxes because of our desire to help our employees.”

Green added that the budget included reinvestment, with projects like street paving, but also included money for key studies such as an impact fee study and the creation of design guidelines. 

“I think it’s a very well-rounded budget,” he said.

Councilman Jay Knerr said meetings with department heads regarding their needs had been very helpful during the budget process. 

“It helped bring the budget into focus,” he said.

Councilman Dean Burrell said he too was pleased with the way the budget had turned out.

“I am especially pleased with how we started it — we started it with trying to look out for those folks that provide these day to day services for the citizens,” he said. “We started with our staff and I am so pleased that we took that initiative this year to look out for our staff first and then we built the budget. This time next year we will be able to evaluate what we’ve done.” 

This story appears in the June 6, 2024, print edition of the Bayside Gazette.