MILLINGTON — Property owners and residents have one more opportunity to challenge proposed rate increases before the mayor and council here adopt the spending plan for next year.

The Town of Millington will hold a public hearing on Resolution 2021-07, the annual budget, during the regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, May 11.

After the public hearing, the mayor and council will vote to adopt the budget by resolution.

At their April 13 meeting, officials unanimously adopted the fee schedule that raises property taxes, water and sewer rates, and the cost of trash pickup.

The vote followed a public hearing that no one attended.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring, Millington has been conducting all its meetings by conference call. The phone number and access code are published on the town’s website.

The only person on the call for the April 13 council meeting was a Kent County News reporter.

Town Administrator Elizabeth “Jo” Manning, Mayor C.J. Morales and council members Kevin Hemstock, Shelly Holland and Wayne Starkey — socially distanced — gathered in town hall.

The vote was 4-0 (Councilman Eli Manning was absent) to raise the monthly utilities rate by a total of $8 — from $28 to $32 for water and from $27.56 to $31.56 for sewer.

The fee for curbside trash pickup went up by $5 a quarter.

The mayor and council OK’d an increase in property taxes not to exceed 10% over five years.

For fiscal year 2022, which begins July 1, 2021, the property tax rate will increase 5% — from 27.7 cents to 29.08 cents for every $100 of assessed value.

This would be the first property tax increase since 2002, according to a legal notice.

The notice also states that town expenses have risen by more than 67% since 2002.

The new tax rate is 3% higher than the constant yield tax rate and will generate $3,208 in additional revenue for the town, according to the legal notice.

“We had to do it (raise the property tax) to balance the budget and try to keep up with increases in expenses,” Town Administrator Manning said in an interview Friday, April 23.

Manning said the rate increase on the utility side was necessary to balance the budget and because “we have been operating in the red since 2010.”

The utility fund is supposed to be self-supporting.

Manning said the town had been taking money out of the general fund to make up the deficit in the utility fund.

The proposed general fund budget for fiscal year 2022 is $220,974, compared to $240,736 for the current year. Manning attributed the difference mostly to the $23,500 allocated in fiscal year 2021 for capital improvements to Hurtt Avenue.

The spending plan for 2022 includes $45,000 in capital expenses for park restoration and the Quaker burial ground.

Also of note is a decrease in money earmarked for the Kent County Sheriff’s Office. The town cut its allocation in half, to $1,500, based on what was spent on average over the last couple of years. The town pays for the special overtime patrol since it does not have its own police department.

The proposed utility fund budget is $372,350, down from $377,527 for the current year.

The fiscal year 2021 budget includes $60,000 in U.S. Department of Agriculture grant money for a preliminary engineering report of the town’s water and sewer systems.

Also during their April 13 meeting, once the rate changes had been approved, the mayor and council members held a closed session to discuss personnel. They took no action on possibly offering benefits to the town’s three employees, but approved a 3% pay raise across the board for Manning, Jim Baxter (maintenance) and Sam Runkle (maintenance).

They also agreed to hire a part-time clerk at $13 an hour for 16 hours a week.

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