BERLIN — The Berlin Mayor and Council passed the fiscal year 2013 budget Tuesday night after a public hearing that yielded zero comments.
For the fourth consecutive year, the council has reduced the town’s spending.
“The budget we’ve proposed is 2 percent less than last year,” said Mayor Gee Williams.
Arguably the most important aspect of this year’s budget is the 5-cent decrease to the property tax rate, dropping the rate from 73 cents per $100 of assessed value to 68 cents. A property owner with land valued at $200,000 would see town taxes drop to $1,360 in the next fiscal year compared to $1,460 this year.
The rate change comes at an unlikely time, with many other budgets in the area stretched thin and Worcester County at large considering a 7-cent property tax rate increase.
Williams justified the drop by pointing out that Berlin has seen significant prosperity in the past year with an influx of new businesses and the revitalization of several properties in town.
“Hopefully we are just at the beginning of continued investment along that way,” he said.
Another big part of the budget that was approved is the $500 bonus to every full-time town employee.
At the county level, employees are proposed to receive a 2-percent hike in salaries and that’s likely to pass when the final budget is voted on this month. Williams expressed some disappointment that Berlin would not be able to offer raises this year, but said he was satisfied that the bonuses fit comfortably in the budget and do a good job of expressing the gratitude that the town feels for its employees.
Councilman Dean Burrell went even further, offering a long thank you to all of Berlin’s many departments. However, he did admit that town has seen some bumps on the road in 2012 and that there were occasions when residents have been frustrated.
“From time to time during the year, things came up,” he said.
But Burrell added that town employees have always been able to tackle any problems that arose. He was especially impressed with how efficient employees have become under the weight of the recession.
“I feel that here, in the town of Berlin, we have a very professional staff, a very able staff, as reflected in these times,” he said.
Burrell went on to lay much of the town’s current success with attracting business and encouraging growth at the feet of Berlin’s employees.
“It is because of the commitment of the staff, their professional leadership and their commitment to the citizens of Berlin,” he said.
The entire budget will total $13,333,164, roughly $300,000 less than last year’s. After receiving no public comment, the budget was passed unanimously, 5-0.