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Westport Tax Rate Increases Nearly 3%

The wait is over, Westport — the new tax rate has finally been set. Even though the Board of Finance does not know exactly what the town's employment benefit obligations are, it unanimously approved the 2011-12 fiscal year mill rate of 17.43 — a 2.95 percent increase over the current rate of 14.85.

Although the new mill rate was approved Wednesday without debate, board member Ken Wirfel expressed discontent over the way the town's finances have been handled.

"I have concluded that the fundamental financial controls of the town are weak. The Finance Department appears not to document or monitor its financial processes adequately," Wirfel said.

The mill rate was scheduled to be set May 18, but the board postponed that decision — twice — hoping to have a final calculation of the town's other-post employment benefit costs, known as OPEB. These costs determine how the town's annual required contribution, or ARC, to the OPEB fund, are figured into the town's budget and in effect, the mill rate.

But last week, the board met with the actuaries calculating the OPEB costs only to learn final figures might not be available until after July 1 — when the new tax rate goes into effect.

The town's mill rate determines how much money a property owner pays in taxes. Under the new mill rate, which goes into effect July 1, a property owner will pay $17.43 in taxes for every $1,000 of assessed value of a home. For example, a home with an assessed valued of $1 million is charged $17,430 in taxes.

The set tax rate increase is less than last year’s increase of 3.05 percent. And as board member Avi Kaner pointed out, not all Westport residents will see their tax bill increase by 2.95 percent—it depends on what the home’s assessed value is.

“This is a revaluation year and the average household is devalued by 13 to 14 percent,” said Kaner, explaining that those households will see the 2.95 percent increase on their tax bill.

“But then you have the households whose assessments went down more than 13 or 14 percent and those that went up more than 13 or 14 percent,” he said. “You may find a couple thousand households, in getting their tax bill, are very happy because their taxes went down, and you’ll get an equal number of people on the other side of the extreme who’ll get tremendous tax increases.”

Did your home's assessed value go up or down? Are you worried about your tax bill? Please leave a comment below.

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