Who knew garbage could smell so good when it came down to budgeting! As it turns out, the DMIAAB just might be the town's biggest profit center (outside of our pocketbooks) and one with declining expenses year over year to boot!
This was just one of the whiffs of fresh air I got while attending Wednesday night's Middlefield Board of Finance budget workshop. There were four members of the board in attendance, Alice Malcolm and Rebecca Adams could not make it. Dominic DelVecchio presented his 2011/2012 budget to a public audience that included only me and two others. So it was a small forum as usual.
The DMIAAB budget unfolded revenue items first, and then discussions over some cost outlays were tackled. As it turns out, some people in town have their trash picked up, rather than driving it to the dump themselves. These folks are essentially paying for DMIAAB twice, once through their property taxes, and then again to the hauler because they pay up to $26 per month (more like $13 per month for senior citizens) for their trash pickup. Their trash is then compacted and processed through DMIAAB. So the possibility of a rebate of some sort was discussed.
Fees for the DMIAAB are likely to double next year for several items, but that is not such a bad thing in comparison to the private pickup costs I just described. A sticker for annual use of the center is currently $10 and would likely increase to $20 effective July 1. Other fees that will increase are the costs for accepting tires (now a $3 charge going up to $5) and costs for disposal of mattresses (currently $5 going up to $10).
All of these fee increases relate to the costs of disposal of items except for the sticker fee increase. So why, you may ask, if costs in the DMIAAB budget proposal overall are decreasing, why are those fees going up? It's a budget balancing act, plain and simple. There are several expenses that DMIAAB is unable to cover, for disposing of demolition items such as shingles, insulation, etc.
In plain english, if you can't accurately charge for something, such as these demolition items, when the stuff is dropped off, DMIAAB is charged more for the disposal of those items. Thus there is a deficit in that line item for the budget that it must cover. So all of this adds up, and a subsidy has to be found somewhere to balance the budget. In short, that subsidy is the increased sticker fee.
Once this presentation was over, the room cleared and a discussion began about revaluations. This was the second breath of fresh air! I actually heard the board members discussing the relationship of mil rates to valuations and how some politicians try to sneak extra expenses into the budget in re-evaluation years (2012 will be one) so that the public doesn't notice those extra expenses.
Now, this is not to say that it can't, hasn't, or won't happen here, but we at least have a Board of Finance who appears committed toward trying to keep expenses in check in all years regardless of valuations.
The only caveat to this, is of course, items that were unbudgeted this year (such as Powder Ridge interest payments) have been draining the capital reserve fund. The Board of Finance's stance to captial reserving appears to be in the early stages of development, and it's hard to say where this will land. Any increase to the capital reserve fund would affect the mil rate.
As an aside, First Selectman Jon Brayshaw outlined some of his preliminary budget figures on Tuesday night. Revenue projections (which include grand list estimates, Alpine payments and state and federal monies) showed an increase of more than 6 percent. Although this is very preliminary, and subject to many revisions, it seems worrisome to me that it is this high, in light of the fact that the Board of Education's budget has not yet been reviewed.
It would be nice to see some of you at the next round of budget workshops, so that more voices could be heard. I think the Board of Finance welcomes input from the public particularly as to whether or not certain things are valued and should be funded (or don't matter and can therefore be eliminated.) Please come out to a workshop and let them know if you have a proposal that you want to share.
Visit www.middlefieldct.org for meeting times and agendas!