The average tax bill in Durham would jump by about $510 under a budget proposal presented by the town's finance board Monday night.
"As we have said in the last couple of years, this budget was particularly difficult. We knew that this time was going to come, and unfortunately it has," said board chairman Fran Korn. The proposed increase includes the town's share of the which will be presented at a public hearing on Wednesday.
Fewer than 50 residents came out to Coginchaug High School for last night's public hearing on the town's $5.94 million 2012-2013 budget (see PDF). The proposal calls for a 14.75 percent (net) increase over this year's budget.
Under the proposal, the town's mill rate would increase from 30.46 to 32.16.
One of the major contributing factors the increase, according to officials, is a plan to spend $225,000 to rechannel Allyn Brook to prevent further flooding at White Farm. The project, which has garnered widespread support from the community, will begin in August according to First Selectman Laura Francis.
In addition, the town plans to set aside $25,000 in a newly established emergency fund.
"We didn't want to have to put in a new account, but we have great concern, especially this year and last year because of the two major storms we had. We really don't have places we can tap emergency money," Korn said.
For the second consecutive year, the finance board has decided not to tap into the town's $1.5 million fund balance to help offset tax increases.
"We can not afford to take any more money from that fund," said Korn. "We need money to operate. We need cash flow." The current fund balance is the lowest he could remember, Korn said.
Several questions were raised about the budget, including a 3.5 percent proposed pay increase for salaried town employees.
"We can't afford it," said resident Donia Viola. "Eventually we are going to recover ... but it's not here now and quite honestly this is really just horrible that you can assume this will work for everybody."
Francis said the town had managed to keep costs down by eliminating 120 hours at town hall and by reducing health care costs.
The finance board will continue to review the budget before presenting it at the Annual Town Budget Meeting next month.