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CoG takes on shared resources

GOSHEN — Municipal leaders from across the region met in Goshen on May 11 for a monthly meeting of the Northwest Hills Council of Governments (CoG). Topping the agenda this month was a presentation on how towns within the CoG can efficiently share resources.

Guest speaker Rebecca Augur, policy and development coordinator for Connecticut’s Office of Policy and Management, shared information with the CoG regarding the Regional Performance Incentive Program (RPIP) grant.

“It’s really intended to facilitate regional shared services,” said Augur.

RPIP is a competitive statewide grant program that was established in 2007. Funds for RPIP are sourced from rental car and hotel taxes.

Augur explained that COGs can utilize this funding stream to hire staff that can be shared between a number of municipalities.

“The types of things that have gotten awarded are shared animal control officers, shared building and code enforcement, shared tax assessment, a shared firearms training facility and programming of that facility,” said Augur.

Amanda Kennedy, executive director of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments, was in attendance as well to give insight on how RPIP has been utilized in southeastern Connecticut.

“We’ve been providing in-house planners who work as municipal planners in probably six towns,” said Kennedy. “This RPIP grant really was the incentive to pull together.”

Henry Todd, first selectman of Falls Village, said his municipality has found that shared services can offer benefits to small towns.

“We share a building official, we share a tax collector, we share a fire marshal,” said Todd. “It does lead to efficiencies.”

The grant funding is structured across three years and is intended to contribute to the salary of a shared employee. The grant would pay 75% of the employee’s salary in year one, 50% in year two, and 25% in year three before fading out in the fourth year.

Following this presentation, the CoG moved on to a municipal roundtable discussion. Each leader shared recent updates from their town, which were largely dominated by budget discussions.

The general theme was that costs are up across the region but, despite rising prices, mill rates have stayed relatively flat or decreased due to favorable tax assessments.

“We’re going to be voting on our budget on May 31 and it’s up pretty good,” said First Selectman Charles Perotti of North Canaan. “We’re looking to lower the mill rate. We had a real good re-eval last year so we’re looking to get the mill rate down to at least 29. It’s at 31 now.”

Leaders in attendance also expressed concern regarding the newly passed early voting bill at the state level. The bill will allow for 14 days of early, in-person voting across the state.

“That was a big surprise: 14 days. Not only does that hurt us financially but we have part-time registrars,” said First Selectman Magi Winslow of Hartland. “There’s two days a week that are 12-hour days and it’s through the weekend. How do you secure the building?…What about us small towns?”

“Everybody’s talking about this early voting. I don’t know what we’re going to do next year,” said First Selectman Todd Carusillo of Goshen. “Our elections run around $10,000 a year. So, 14 days, I’m figuring $140,000 and I’ve got to go to the taxpayers and say ‘hey, you’ve got to pay this because you voted it in.’”

During this meeting, the CoG agreed to terminate its office lease in Goshen and move to 355 Goshen Rd. in Litchfield. The CoG authorized up to $50,000 for renovations of the new location and the move is expected to take place in September.

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