Preston residents can comment on proposed school budget cuts

Preston - Residents will get the chance Thursday to ask questions and comment on the Board of Finance's decision to cut the proposed school budget by $342,090 before the revised budget goes to a referendum on June 10.

Voters soundly rejected the first proposed school budget of $11.2 million at a May 16 referendum by a vote of 344 to 229. Last week, the finance board voted to reduce the budget to $10.8 million and send that proposal to voters along with advisory questions asking whether voters think the budget is too high or too low.

Selectmen approved that agenda with little discussion, scheduling the town meeting for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Preston Veterans' Memorial School.

Although two members of the Board of Finance attended the selectmen's meeting - Norman Gauthier and Merrill Gerber - First Selectman Robert Congdon suggested any discussion take place during the town meeting. Congdon said selectmen only had control over setting the town meeting and referendum schedule.

Residents have the authority to propose additional cuts to the school budget at the town meeting, but not to increase the budget. The budget automatically will go to referendum on June 10 from noon to 8 p.m. at Town Hall.

Two other questions will be decided by voters at Thursday's town meeting without going to referendum.

The Conservation Commission had requested a name change to "Conservation and Agriculture Commission" to allow the town to qualify for certain farmland preservation programs. The commission already handles agricultural issues through an agricultural subcommittee, and has held farming issues forums recently.

Residents also must approve the town's acceptance of a $200,000 state brownfields assessment grant recently awarded by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to continue cleanup at the former Norwich Hospital property. The grant does not require a local matching share.

c.bessette@theday.com

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