Town meeting held on North Stonington budget
North Stonington — The public hearing on the proposed town budget saw a handful turn out to voice opinions on the proposed $19.2 million spending plan.
The budget represents around a 4 percent increase overall, half of which came from increases in the capital budget due to the proposed Emergency Services center. The other half reflected proposed increases in the operating expenses of the town and education budgets.
Under the plan, the tax rate would increase by 1.7 mills, of which 0.9 will equalize the grand list. Excluding the increase from the falling grand list, the property tax bill on a home assessed at $200,000 will increase by $160.
A townwide referendum on the budget is scheduled for June 20.
During the hearing, resident Brian Rathbun cited the high cost of living for seniors and the school modernization project and said that more could be cut from the budget. He also echoed a call at several board meetings over the past month for more planning into the future.
"I don't think this budget is set up to bring in any business. ... Give us a a budget that's going to benefit the whole town," he said.
The Board of Education's budget increased by about $250,000, of which $192,000 will be applied to a 10 percent increase in health care costs for employees. A consortium of schools, through which the district buys insurance, approved the increase this year.
The Board of Selectmen's budget increased by about $125,000, which also saw hikes in its insurance costs and some salary increases.
Capital increases reflect an additional $425,000 being reserved in a capital nonrecurring account for the center for emergency services that, while not due yet, selectmen felt would be appropriate to include in the budget before the impact of the school renovation bond is realized.
Around $100,000 of that increase reflected grants to the Resident State Trooper program added to the budget at the advice of an auditor. The budget is up 2.6 percent overall and 0.5 percent if the grants are removed, since those grants will be offset by revenues when the grant arrives.
The budget does not include the much-discussed third resident state trooper that was eliminated last year, and includes money for a brush truck and car for the volunteer fire company, though the capital items are down overall from last year.
First Selectman Shawn Murphy said the selectmen chose to delay the referendum date two weeks after the town meeting due to comments he received after the school modernization referendum from out-of-town residents who could not vote by absentee ballot. There was not enough time to send out and receive ballots by mail, Town Clerk Norma J. Holliday explained at the time.
Murphy said that ballots should be available Tuesday.
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