More than new station to consider


MILFORD – The possibility of a new police station has overshadowed almost everything else in town as annual meetings approach, but it’s not alone on the ballot.

Among other things, there’s an operating budget of slightly more than $10 million – the exact amount is still unclear, as the Budget Committee and selectmen disagree by about $100,000 – plus more than 25 other warrant articles.

Interestingly, those articles will include four relatively small items that are not supported by the Board of Selectmen. This is apparently the first time that selectmen have included items that they don’t support on a ballot.

These articles cover $24,000 for summer concerts, town fireworks and support for parades, items that have been the target of a lot of discussion over the past three years. Also included is $28,900 in local support for social services such as Red Cross.

Town Administrator Katherine Chambers said the selectmen found it hard to support such events while cutting requests from essential departments, but left the articles on the ballot to see if voters wanted to spend the money.

If the proposed budget and all warrant articles are approved, the town tax rate would go up about 9 percent, or an estimated 60 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, to an estimated $7.49. This would add $90 to the annual tax bill of a $150,000 home.

That figure does not include any increase if the new police station is approved. Because it would be paid for by long-term bonds, the cost would not begin to show up until the next year.

The proposed operating budget will get its first public airing tonight.

The likely amount to go before voters is $10.1 million, a 5.5 percent increase over the current $9.58 million budget.

That figure was backed Thursday by the Budget Advisory Committee, which recommended a series of cuts to trim the figure to about $80,000 higher than that, and then agreed on the final figure due to overall concern about costs.

The Board of Selectmen has looked at a 2004-05 budget of $10.2 million, but Chambers said she thought that the group would be likely to go along with the Budget Committee number. Selectmen are likely to vote on their final recommendation Monday, and Chambers said she thought they would go with the Budget Committee figure.

Milford has been burned by disagreement between the two bodies before. Two years ago, the Budget Committee wanted an extra $77,000 in cuts and did not support the selectmen’s budget. As a result, voters rejected the budget, leading to a $500,000 reduction when the default budget kicked in.

The most prominent change in next year’s proposed budget is a reorganization of the Department of Public Works that would involve five new employees – including a new assistant director hired in December with money from the current budget.

The proposed budget would also include a new water foreman to oversee a combined water and wastewater department, and a new superintendent of highways, drains and new development, to oversee areas that have caused problems.

“(DPW Director Bill Ruoff) just has too much on his plate,” said Chambers. “These are items we haven’t been able to get to, things that we’d like to stay on top of.”

Selectmen also want to add a police officer, a recommendation the Budget Committee doesn’t support. It’s unclear if the officer would remain in the $10.1 million budget.

The police station proposal would involve tearing down the 77-year-old Garden Street School and replacing it with a two-story station.