Taxes to rise in Cornwall after ‘tough year’

CORNWALL — Wild weather, a growing student population, and inflationary pressures have led to spending increases across the board in Cornwall.

The Board of Finance (BOF) reviewed spending proposals from the Board of Selectmen, Region One Schools, and Cornwall Consolidated School (CCS) on March 21.

First Selectman Gordon Ridgway presented a draft municipal budget, which showed increases in expenses and a depleted unassigned general fund.

“Because of all the storm damage, we have drawn down the town savings in a way we haven’t done in a long time,” said Ridgway. “It’s a tough year.”

The municipal spending proposal for 2024-25 totaled $3,149,995, an increase of $207,306 (7.04%) over 2023-24. Next year’s budget includes $100,000 for a storm damage fund, a new line item in Cornwall’s budget, which was added to avoid further draining the town’s savings due to weather events.

A growing high school population caused a spike in Cornwall’s Region One assessment. Students from Cornwall now make up about 12.5% of Housatonic Valley Regional High School’s population with 36 students enrolled.

Cornwall’s Region One assessment totaled $2,027,575 in 2024-25, an increase of $180,457 (9.77%) compared to last year.

Expenses are up at CCS as well. The spending plan for 2024-25 is up to $2,773,399, an increase of $139,496 (5.3%) above last year’s total.

On the positive side, Cornwall closed out one debt service, reducing the bottom line by $184,255 compared to 2023-24.

Despite dipping into its reserves, Cornwall’s unassigned general fund balance remains above the state’s recommended two-and-a-half months of savings. Present estimates from Finance Director Barbara Herbst showed just under $1,000,000 in excess savings.

Combined, the proposals from each department brought Cornwall’s total expenses in 2024-25 to $8,111,576, an increase of $343,003 (4.42%) over last year. As presented, the mill rate would increase to 15.97, up 8.64% from 2023-24.

BOF set out to minimize the overall increase to the mill rate by allocating $195,000 from the unassigned general fund to help balance the budget.

BOF then requested the selectmen and CCS reevaluate spending proposals and come back with a 1% overall reduction.

“We’ll do our best to get through it. I’m sure we will,” said Ridgway.

BOF will review the adjusted proposals from the selectmen and CCS at its next regular meeting April 4 at 7 p.m.

The budget will then go to public hearing on April 19, 7:30 p.m. at Cornwall Library.

Prior to the public hearing will be a town meeting to reallocate unused funds from last year to go toward repairs in town.

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