North Stonington residents approve town budget, reject school budget

North Stonington -- Almost five months after the fiscal year began, residents here approved the proposed 2017-18 town budget but rejected the education budget at Monday's referendum.

The town, or government, budget was approved by a vote of 308-271. Meanwhile the proposed education budget, which did not call for an increase, was rejected by 10 votes, 294-284.  

Overall, the referendum saw lower voter turnout compared to last year, when turnout ranged from 700 to 900 for the three referendums. 

"A lot of work was done, on both sides, and it is great that we can get this behind us," First Selectman Mike Urgo said about passing the town budget. "We'll just have to see what the opportunities are on the school side to put something together."

Passing the $6,384,900 town budget was a welcomed sight for a town that witnessed a fierce fight over the budget just a year ago, and was already late in bringing a budget proposal to the table this year. Due to the prolonged uncertainty of the state budget, unlike other towns, North Stonington officials held off on proposing a budget until the state's allocation was clear.

Passing the town budget will allow the town officials to move forward with setting the tax rate for the rest of the year. Until this point, the tax rate was based on last year's budget, but the new rate will be a topic of discussion both at the selectmen's meeting Tuesday and the Board of Finance meeting Wednesday. The Board of Finance is ultimately responsible for setting the tax rate.

The approved budget calls for approximately a 6.1 percent increase from last year and allocates $75,000 for the hiring of an administration and finance officer who would also act as a liaison with the town's various boards and commissions. Money for the position's salary was made available in part by eliminating or consolidating several other positions including economic development coordinator, town clerk for records for preservation and positions within the transfer station. 
Although the proposed $12.87 million education budget is the same as last year, several residents expressed concern that the cost was too high.

Resident Howard Smith, who voted against the education budget, said he felt the cost per student was too high.

"I voted against it in principle," he added.



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