Stonington residents decisively approve $58.5M budget

Stonington — Residents voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to approve a 2014-15 town budget of $58.5 million and its 0.55-mill tax rate increase, a decision that prevents further reductions to the school budget.

The vote, 1,722-731, reflected just 20 percent of the town’s registered voters, despite protests over the Board of Finance’s initial decision to cut $525,000 from a proposed $1 million school budget increase. After a public hearing, $270,000 of that increase was restored.

School board Chairman Frank Todisco said the Board of Education will meet at a 7 p.m. Thursday at the high school to discuss what to eliminate to accommodate the cut, which is now $190,000 because of a revenue transfer for magnet school transportation. 

Todisco admitted that he had been nervous about whether the budget would pass. If the budget had been defeated, more school cuts were expected.

“I’m very happy and grateful for the parents and their support,” he said, adding that the PTOs did a good job getting people out to vote.

As to what the school board will cut, Todisco said the board will wait to hear recommendations on Thursday from Superintendent of Schools Van Riley.

When the $525,000 cut was announced, the board agreed to a package of cuts that included teachers, some foreign language classes, funding for some sports and extracurricular activities, music programs, textbooks and materials.

Last month, more than 400 people packed a public hearing on the budget and urged the finance board to restore all the school cuts and let residents vote on the budget. The board refused, a move that angered school budget supporters.

With the large margin of victory on Tuesday, Todisco said he thought the budget would have been approved if the finance board had restored all the cuts.

Asked about what could be done to get the school budget passed intact next year, Todisco said he would work to create an improved dialogue between the boards of education, finance and selectmen.

“There’s a need for short-term and long-term planning as a town. It doesn’t exist now,” he said.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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