BERLIN – After a controversial tax increase and hotly debated budget process, Berlin officials adopted a resolution establishing a tax rate review policy this week.
The Berlin Town Council voted 4-0 this week to approve a policy setting a schedule for an annual tax rate review.
“The idea here is to schedule an ongoing rate review and review of short-term and long-term financial projections and to have the tax rate set early enough in the budget process to be able to have the department directors build their budgets with the tax rate that you set,” Town Administrator Laura Allen said.
The resolution approved Monday states that the town council will review Berlin’s short- and long-term financial projections at or before the second meeting in January. At or before the second meeting in February, officials will set the date for the tax rate public hearing. The resolution goes on to state that the public hearing for the tax rate and the decision on it shall come no later than the second meeting in March.
Councilman Zack Tyndall suggested adding a presentation on the town’s general fund reserves to the financial projections to be reviewed in January.
“Just to give us an overview where we stand,” he said.
Allen agreed that a reserve presentation could be added to the review schedule and the council went on to approve the resolution with a 4-0 vote. Councilman Dean Burrell was absent.
In an interview Tuesday, Allen said she believed the tax rate review policy would improve the budget process.
“It stemmed from a conversation the mayor and I had about the budget process this year and things we could be doing a little bit differently going forward,” she said.
She said that by reviewing the town’s short- and long-term financial projections by mid-January, elected officials would have a better understanding of the town’s fiscal position.
“Then they can decide whether they want to raise taxes or maybe they want to adjust expenditures,” she said.
Allen added that setting the tax rate earlier would also ensure town staff had the finalized figure as they made adjustments to the coming year’s budget.
Another issue that came up during the budget process, the town’s level of reserve funds, is also expected to be the subject of a new town policy in the coming weeks.
“There’s a reserve policy we’re working on now,” Allen said. “We’re hoping to have that ready in the next month or so.”