Preston board to review budget

Preston - The Board of Finance on Monday will review details of the proposed $3.3 million 2014-15 general government budget that calls for a 4 percent, $127,049 spending increase.

The finance board will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in Town Hall for its first detailed review of the budget proposal.

First Selectman Robert Congdon said a few factors out of the town's control drove much of the increase - including the cost of the two resident state troopers and health and liability insurance. The Board of Selectmen also proposed a 2 percent cost-of-living increase for town employees.

Preston would be affected by a controversial change in what the state's charges towns for resident trooper coverage. The town faces an increase of $30,000 for police protection, mainly to cover benefits for the two resident troopers, bringing the total police budget to $233,900, if the current policy remains unchanged.

Towns with resident troopers had paid 70 percent of the fringe benefits costs for the troopers, but the state now plans to charge towns 100 percent of the benefits' cost, along with 100 percent of fringe benefits costs of troopers' overtime hours. Congdon said the move would make overtime virtually cost-prohibitive.

The $42,653 combined increases for town liability and health insurance accounts for 33 percent of the total budget, Congdon said, and added to the resident state trooper cost, comprises nearly two-thirds of the overall budget increase.

The Preston Redevelopment Agency, which oversees the demolition and marketing of the former Norwich Hospital property, would receive a budget totaling $202,850, a $26,460 increase. Congdon said the agency's initial request was another $25,000 higher, but selectmen cut the budget.

Selectmen also removed $120,000 from the budget that would be needed as the town's matching share if the PRA obtains three $200,000 federal Environmental Protection Agency grants for the ongoing cleanup of the former hospital property. Congdon said if the town receives the grants, a town meeting can be called to vote on the required matching shares.

c.bessette@theday.com

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