Voters pass budgets in Preston

Preston — Voters at Tuesday's referendum passed both the $3.3 million general government and $10.6 million 2013-14 school budgets.

First Selectman Bob Congdon said the general government budget passed 224 to 154 and the school budget passed by a vote count of 215 to 165.

The school budget represents a 1.86 percent, or $193,644, increase over the current budget and keeps staffing and current programs at the town's two schools in place while adding two staff members to the bus garage. It is the first spending increase in five years.

The general government budget as presented to voters represented a $72,000 drop in spending and includes a 3 percent raises for town employees.

The expected tax rate hike was reduced, however, with news this week that the Preston Redevelopment Agency did not receive three different Environmental Protection Agency grants for which the town had budgeted $40,000 each in matching funds.

Congdon said the Board of Finance reduced the budget by $120,000 Tuesday before setting the tax rate at 23.7 mills.

Without the extra money taken out of the budget, Congdon said the tax rate would have jumped from 19.43 mills to 23.93 mills. The tax rate increase is in part due to a 16 percent drop in the grand list of property values associated with revaluation and a drop in property values.

Voters previously passed a $1.7 million capital improvement spending plan.

"I think both general government and education are very reasonable budgets," Congdon said. "The selectmen and Board of Education worked hard to hold down spending as much as possible."

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