Milford's city council passed the city's annual budget on June 13, but waited for more options before voting one way or the other on next year's planned tax assessment.

Milford’s city council passed a $42 million budget for 2011-12 with little debate on the evening of June 13, a week after hammering out a series of spending cuts in a special June 6 meeting.

The city’s spending plan for the year runs to $42,571,885, to be funded by property taxes, city fees and utility rates.

“We have a balanced budget with no tax increase and no reserve funds being used,” council member and finance committee chairman Skip Pikus said. “There were several cuts but no positions were lost.”

Alongside the general budget is another $6,113,340 for capital projects like construction and sewer improvements, paid for with $4.4 million in bond sales and state grants, and another $1.6 million from the city’s reserve funds.

“I want to thank our city manager and financial director, and Skip Pikus and his committee, the department heads and everyone who worked to make this budget work,” Milford Mayor Ronnie Rogers said. “In the times we’re experiencing, I’m quite proud of what this council has done, working together.”

More options wanted for assessment

There are hundreds upon hundreds of separate properties in Milford, and the city’s charter says every 10 years the government has to take stock of exactly how much every single one is worth.

“We want to be sure that everybody’s paying their fair share when it comes to taxes,” Milford Tax Assessor John Darsney said.

The catch: an in-depth analysis of every house, apartment, business and undeveloped lot in the city doesn’t come cheap. The city council found that out firsthand on Monday night, when they were presented with the price tag for next year’s assessment: $261,000.

“A quarter of a million dollars is a lot of money to spend at once,” council member Dirk Gleysteen said.

To make matters worse, there was no competition for the job. When the city needs an outside contractor to do some specialized work, they usually take bids from a series of companies and go with the one that can do the job for the least money. But that’s not an option here, because there’s only one private firm that does assessments in Delaware.

“We sent the request for proposals to over 20 companies… Tyler (Technologies) was the only one that gave us a bid,” Darsney said.

The council delayed a vote for at least two weeks to allow officials to look into other options. But exactly what the council can do to bring down the price is unclear, short of amending the charter so it no longer requires assessments. Darsney said asking for another round of bids would probably just get Tyler’s proposal again, and a city-wide assessment is too much work for a single assessor like Darsney to do on his own.