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In Cornwall, budget meeting held by phone

CORNWALL — In this new world of town halls closed by COVID-19, the Cornwall Board of Finance held a meeting by  teleconference call on Thursday, March 19.

The board discussed the proposed budgets submitted by the selectmen and the Board of Education for the 2020-21 fiscal year. The fiscal year begins July 1 in normal times; Gov. Ned Lamont has decreed that budgets can be submitted a month later than normal this year.

The Cornwall finance board, however,  agreed that a change to the calendar would not be necessary. Board Chairman Joseph Pryor said, “It would be good to stay with the schedule.”

The overall intent is to keep the mill rate flat for the coming year. To accomplish that, the town will need to borrow an estimated $149,150 from the Unassigned Fund Balance.

First Selectman Gordon Ridgway said that some savings are being realized from a mild winter.

The selectmen and the Board of Education  agreed to look for any additional savings and make modifications to their proposals.

“The overall increase is pretty small,” Finance Officer Barbara Herbst said of both budgets.

Pryor particularly suggested that the Board of Education examine its budget to identify savings, perhaps advance buying some of the computers slated for purchase for the coming year.

The present proposal shows a 3% increase in spending over the current year’s budget.

Annie Kosciusko, education board clerk, noted that savings are expected in electricity costs and heating oil in the current year, with fuel prices at a lower cost than in recent memory.

“It’s so much in the air, I would want to buy as much this year as we can,” she said.

The Board of Finance agreed to meet again on Thursday, April 16, to approve the proposed budgets, clearing the way for the public hearing on the budget scheduled for Friday, April 24.

Note: The mill rate determines property taxes in Connecticut towns. A mill represents $1 in tax for every $1,000 of assessed property value. A 15-mill tax rate would translate into a tax bill of $1,500 for the owner of a home assessed at $100,000.

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