After tabling the matter to make changes, Milton Town Council unanimously approved the town’s $4.8 million fiscal year 2023 budget Sept. 12, with the most significant change being a decrease of a property tax increase from 18% to 17%.
The decrease will not have a huge impact on the town’s bottom line, as the town is still expected to run at a small surplus, although that surplus decreased from $1,700 to about $1,200.
Under the proposal, the tax rate would go from $0.252 per $100 of assessed value to $0.295 per $100 of assessed value, a 17% increase. In early drafts of the budget, the increase was around 18 percent, but that was decreased after the town’s pay scale and liability insurance costs were not as high as anticipated, plus additional grant funding the town received for capital improvements. Property taxes are Milton’s largest revenue generator; in FY 2022, the town is expected to take in $1.235 million, about $15,000 more than budgeted. With the increase, FY 2023 is estimated to generate a bit less than $1.5 million. Mayor John Collier has repeatedly said throughout the budget process that the increase will help maintain the level of services that Milton citizens have become accustomed to.
Among other notable items in the budget is using $250,000 in realty transfer tax for operational expenditures for public safety. Transfer tax revenue is restricted by state law to certain uses, and Town Manager Kristy Rogers has said in the past that her projected revenue is not exactly what she thinks the town will take in, but what the town intends to spend it on, with the rest going into reserve funds the town has recently used for capital improvement projects. The draft budget estimates $587,000 in transfer tax revenue.
During its review, the finance committee recommended the town consider adding an 11th police officer at the council’s annual six-month budget review, which is due to happen in March. The committee recommended moving forward with the purchases of a $170,000 dump truck and a water vacuum machine for $56,000. Both of these items had been in the fiscal year 2021 budget, but had not been purchased. The water vacuum machine is part of the water department budget, which is separate from the town’s general fund.
While much of the town’s fee schedule did not change, there will be a raise in water usage rates from $3.50 per 1,000 gallons to $3.95 per 1,000 gallons; the town’s finance committee had recommended bringing up the rate another five cents to $4.00 per 1,000 gallons, but the new rate was kept at $3.95 in the adopted budget. The water department raises revenue through usage rates. Money raised by the additional five-cent increase would help build a water reserve fund to pay for emergency repairs. Water mains are a major issue in Milton, as the town has invested millions to repair aging infrastructure, but there are still breaks, such as one in June on Reed Street that flooded the street.
Although the water usage fee increase was not part of the budget adopted Sept. 12, council can amend the fee schedule as the budget year goes on.
Other than the dump truck, most of the general fund capital expenses are carried over from previous years, such as the Magnolia Street bulkhead and drainage project, priced at $1.2 million, which started in July and is expected to last through the end of the year. While half of that cost is funded through a state grant, the town’s share of the project is larger than expected due to supply chain issues and increased costs of materials.
The fiscal year 2023 budget is due to take effect Saturday, Oct. 1.