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North Stonington — Board of Finance Chairman Dan Spring said a "pretty straightforward" budget proposal is on the agenda for a public hearing tonight, where officials will pitch a 3.8 percent increase in government operating spending and a tax hike of one-quarter of a mill.
The $18.3 million overall proposed budget - which includes government, debt, education and capital spending - represents a decrease of just over 5 percent from the current budget, or almost $1 million. But the overall decrease is due to the retirement of a large chunk of debt payments - about $373,000 - and a sharp decline of about $832,000 in spending on capital projects.
On the education side, though Superintendent Peter Nero has proposed a zero-increase budget of $12.7 million, an extra $43,600 in workers' compensation amounts to a 0.34 percent increase. But Spring said this cost - the result of shifting more of the workers' compensation burden over to the school district, which employs more staff than Town Hall - does not reflect a spending increase on the part of the schools.
The bulk of the $170,857 in additional government operating costs includes a state-mandated increase for the town's resident state trooper program and the addition of a part-time economic development coordinator to the town employee roster. The town will continue to pay for three troopers to patrol the area.
Spring said the increase also includes typical year-to-year inflation in compensation packages.
As for the purposeful increases - an additional $70,000 in public-safety line items, $25,000 for a contracted town planner, and a $35,000 jump in economic development investment - Spring said these reflect taxpayers' priorities as expressed while drafting the town's latest Plan of Conservation and Development. The plan was completed in December after a year of work, three public hearings and multiple sessions inviting community input.
This year's budget represented a 7.2 percent increase, with a tax rate increase of nearly 2 mills. The year prior, it took the town five months and four referendums to pass what was ultimately chiseled down to a 0.4 percent increase.
Spring said town service levels will stay "basically unaltered" if the proposal is approved as is.
"There's nothing that is substantial that I think would concern the taxpayers," he said.
What: North Stonington budget public hearing
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: North Stonington Elementary School