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    Wednesday, May 22, 2024

    Preston residents get chance to comment on town, school budgets April 25

    Preston ― The Board of Finance voted unanimously Wednesday to send the proposed 2024-25 town and school budgets to a public hearing without changes and agreed to use $1.2 million of the town’s surplus fund to offset a portion of the tax rate increase.

    The board briefly considered altering the budgets, but members agreed they would want residents’ input before doing so. The proposed school budget of $15.18 million and the $5.4 million town government budget will now go to residents at an April 25 public hearing at 7 p.m. at Preston Veterans’ Memorial School.

    Combined with debt service and capital improvements budgets, the entire package totals $21.3 million. Detailed town and school budget documents are posted on the town’s new ClearGov section on the town website, preston-ct.org.

    Town and school Finance Director Cindy Varricchio presented the board with revenue projections and projected tax rates if the board decided to use a portion of the town’s healthy general fund to offset taxes.

    The town is projected to end the current fiscal year with an unassigned fund balance of $3.2 million, 15.2% of the town’s budgeted expenses. The Board of Finance has a policy to keep a balance equal to at least 9.5% of total annual expenses in reserve. That would give the Board of Finance up to $1.21 million available to offset taxes in the coming year, Varricchio’s report showed.

    The board will not set the final tax rate until after budgets are approved at referendum. But Varricchio provided a chart that showed if the budgets remain unchanged, and the Board of Finance uses $1.2 million in available surplus funds, the projected tax rate would be 23.7 mills, an increase of 0.83 mills over the current 22.87 mills.

    The finance board routinely approves using a portion of the surplus fund to offset taxes each year. But the trend in most years has been that town revenues surpassed conservative projections, and both the town government and school district have returned unspent money to the general fund.

    Revenues could get a boost again midway through the 2024-25 budget year, First Selectwoman Sandra Allyn-Gauthier said, as the town is nearing completion of the cleanup of the former Norwich Hospital property. The town could convey ownership of the 393-acre property to the Mohegan tribe by December or January, placing the property on the tax rolls for the first time.

    c.bessette@theday.com

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