The New Milford Town Council has approved a small tax increase in its proposed budget for 2014-15.

The council's $98.53 million budget proposal next will be scrutinized by the town's Board of Finance.

The council's proposal would represent a 1.75 percent tax increase over fiscal 2013-14, or 0.45 mills, bringing the tax rate to 26.30 mills.

Taxes would be $2,630 on every $100,000 of assessed property value.

The $98.53 million represents a $157,368 reduction from Mayor Pat Murphy's budget proposal.

The council upheld Murphy's $650,000 cut from the Board of Education's proposed schools budget by a vote of 6 to 3, with Democratic council members Frank Wargo, Mary Jane Lundgren and Walter Bayer voting against the reduction.

The education budget now stands at $60.96 million.

"What we have is a budget that addresses most of what people need but not everything everyone wants," Murphy said. "The Town Council took a long time on this and made a measured decision that meets the needs of the community, while keeping taxes in check."

The cut to education spending was essential, according to council vice chairman Pete Bass.

Bass noted a near stagnant grand list growth of .41 percent and added residents are still struggling with the economy.

Fuel assistance requests are up in the town as are other Social Services programs, he said.

The proposed $60.96 million education budget represents a $1.32 million increase over the present year, Bass added. The Town Council recommended the Board of Education take funds from the town's capital budget to meet the reduction.

"We were please to see no further cuts were made beyond the mayor's proposed $650,000 reduction," said Board of Education Chairman Danielle Shook, "however, by following the Town Council's recommendation, we will have to put some major repairs on hold like the Schaghticoke (Middle School) roof."

Replacement of the roof on Schaghticoke Middle School is estimated at $1.7 million.

"We will wait to hear the Board of Finance's decision and move forward from there," Shook said.

The municipal budget now stands at $37.57 million.

A cut of one employee was recommended from the Public Works Department budget.

However, $50,000 was added to the Public Works budget for hiring an engineer draftsman/technician.

There is good news for New Milford Public Library -- $23,800 remains in the budget for a part-time, non-union, 25-hour per week position of digital literacy librarian.

Also, $12,622 remains to increase library hours, allowing the library to stay open Mondays and Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m.

The Board of Finance will set a public hearing on the budget for a date to be determined.

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322