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Members of Branford's Representative Town Meeting (RTM) are shown in discussion on May 14, on the way to finalizing and adopting Branford's 2019-20 budget, which was passed by a unanimous RTM vote. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Finance Board Will Convene to Set New Mill Rate
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By unanimous vote on May 14, Branford's 2019-20 town budget, totaling $115,297,464 was approved by the Representative Town Meeting (RTM). As it stands, the budget represents an approximate three percent annual increase in expenditures over the 2018-19 town budget.
Branford's 2019-20 budget provides $58,294,600 for school operating, capital and lease expenses and $57,002,864 for Town government expenses. The new budget factors in hiring eight new firefighters and also incorporates investing $300,000 in the Town's newly-established Coastal Resiliency Fund.
Now that the RTM's work is done to finalize and adopt Branford's operating and capital expenses budget for the next fiscal year (July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020), the next step calls for the Board of Finance (BOF) to convene to finalize the new mill rate, said Town Finance Director Jim Finch. As it stands, the RTM's approved $115.29 million budget creates a mill rate of 29.13 mills, an increase of 0.49 mills or 1.7 percent from the current rate of 28.64 mills.
At 29.13 mills, "...the tax increase is going to be less than $180 on a $10,000 tax bill," said Finch.
The next meeting of the BOF is scheduled for Monday, May 20.
Over the last two months, the RTM, through the work of its committees, reduced a recommended $115.41 million budget forwarded by the BOF in March by a net reduction of $117,248. Ahead of the RTM budget vote on May 14, RTM Majority Leader Ray Ingraham (R, District 5) thanked Branford's 30 RTM members for their work on the budget.
"I'd like to thank all of you for a good, thoughtful process this year," said Ingraham. "We've gone through and discussed things, we've gone back and debated within teams. We've done it all this year, and it's a lot of hard work. I know a lot of people put a lot of time into it."
Branford's budget review process began in early 2019 with a total requested budget of $116,643,012 ($58,798,890 for schools and $57,120,112 for town departments) forwarded to the BOF for review.
Branford First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove said the unanimous vote by the RTM on May 14 indicates the budget that was brought forth was responsible and fiscally sound.
"It was good budget that met our needs while being mindful of the burden on the taxpayers, so I think the RTM validated what was brought forward to them," said Cosgrove.
Cosgrove noted Branford's budget also makes provisions for potential state budget impacts, such as a possible teachers' retirement system contribution that could be required of the town. State impacts to municipalities in fiscal 2019-20 won't be known until the state budget, currently under review by legislators, is finalized.
"So uncertainty on the state level is back of mind when we're putting this budget together," said Cosgrove. "But I think what you saw here, and through the whole process, is really being mindful of that; while staying true to funding our liabilities and addressing the needs of our residents."
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