North Stonington budget still the target of critics

North Stonington - About 50 North Stonington residents attended a town meeting Monday night in which voters got a chance to comment on the town's third attempt to pass an $18.4 million budget for the current fiscal year.

The next referendum on the budget is scheduled for Monday.

At Monday's public hearing, a few people spoke in favor of the budget, but many spoke against it, often citing objections to specific line items.

The town has been operating on last year's $18.01 million budget since the fiscal year ended July 1, according to First Selectman Nicholas H. Mullane. The last proposed budget of about $18.9 million was struck down in a town referendum July 2, in which the town voted nearly 2 to 1 against both the general government operating budget and the Board of Education budget.

This third attempt cuts the government budget by about $115,000 and the Board of Education budget by about $300,000. If accepted, it will increase the overall budget by about $460,000 from fiscal year 2011-12.

"This town has used fiscal rigor … so please keep that in mind," said Daniel Spring, chairman of the Board of Finance, of the town's spending record.

But some residents complained Monday about their rising tax rates, asking that the budget be cut even further in order to maintain them.

"If it didn't pass two times, what makes you think it's going to pass a third?" asked one resident.

Spring allowed that the revenue side of the budget needs work in terms of bringing more infrastructure and business to North Stonington, saying that growth here would alleviate the tax burden on residents. But he insisted this would be done through working with Planning and Zoning, not tweaking the budget plan.

Moderator Robert Shabunia told the crowd that 82 percent of residents will not see more than a $300 increase on their property taxes under the budget proposal.

Town Hall will be open from noon to 8 p.m. Monday for referendum voting.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This version corrects an earlier version.

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