Proposed $57.1 million budget for 2012-13 contains the biggest jump in five years
Stonington - For the past several years, voters here have begun to change the town's reputation for protracted budget battles as they approved the annual budget on the first try.
But that trend will be tested Tuesday, when they go to the polls to vote on a budget that calls for the largest tax rate increase in five years.
The proposed $57.1 million budget for 2012-13 would increase the tax rate to 16.05 mills. The .42 mill increase is twice as much as voters approved last year and it's close to the total tax rate increase over the past four years - .53 mills.
The last time voters here approved a tax rate increase that large was back in the spring of 2007 when they approved a .86-mill increase in the 2007-08 budget at the first referendum. The following year angry voters forced multiple votes before passing a budget.
The Board of Finance finalized the budget two weeks ago after a large group of school supporters attended a public hearing and urged the restoration of $156,215 that had been cut from the proposed school budget.
If the money was not restored a number of items would have been cut, such as $120,000 to hire two staff members to help students struggling with math, $15,400 from high school sports and $4,600 from high school extracurricular activities.
Instead supporters suggested the finance board use more money from its $11.5 million undesignated fund balance to offset the school budget cut.
The board agreed and took an additional $300,000 from the fund balance, giving half of it to the school budget, restoring almost all of the cut. The other $150,000 will be used to lower the proposed tax rate. The board had already planned to use $500,000 from the fund balance to offset the tax increase.
Finance Chairman Glenn Frishman has said that if voters turn down the budget, his board will have to cut the proposed $33.2 million school budget and its $1.3 million, or 4.1 percent, increase because that's where the money is.