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Preston budget public hearing to be held Thursday

Preston — Residents will have the chance to comment on the proposed 2022-23 town and school budgets at a Board of Finance public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Preston Veterans’ Memorial School, 325 Shetucket Turnpike-Route 165.

The finance board has made no changes to the submitted town and school budgets, which will be presented to residents Thursday, along with town revenue projections for the coming fiscal year. The Board of Finance will hold a special meeting to discuss possible budget changes immediately following the public hearing.

Both budgets call for significant spending increases over this year’s total, with skyrocketing utilities costs, inflation and salary increases contributing to the unusually high proposed increases, town and school officials have told the Board of Finance at recent meetings.

The proposed $13.4 million school budget calls for a spending hike of $977,438, a 7.8% increase over this year’s total. The budget includes a 9% increase in salaries, 14% increase in projected utilities and supply costs, a 6.5% increase in high school tuitions and a projected 14% increase in special education tuition.

Superintendent Roy Seitsinger said salaries, health care and tuitions make up 98% of the overall budget increase. While some districts anticipate drops in enrollment over the next several years, Seitsinger said Preston anticipates slow, steady school population growth in the next decade.

The proposed $4.3 million town government budget would have an 8.6% spending increase over this year’s budget. First Selectwoman Sandra Allyn-Gauthier told the finance board that increases are expected in several key categories. In response to rapidly climbing inflation, she proposed 4% raises across the board for town employees, who are not unionized. Even at that level, she said, salaries would not keep up with the 6% projected Social Security cost-of-living increases. Health insurance for employees is expected to jump by 8%.

During preliminary budget discussions, the Board of Finance initially proposed cutting the employee salary increase from 4% to 2.5%. But the board took no action on any proposed budget changes to await a completed 2020-21 fiscal year audit — several months late — to learn the total amount in the town’s undesignated fund and to await updated state and other revenue projections.

Board of Finance Chairman John Moulson said Monday he hopes to have audit figures and solidified revenues projections in time for Thursday’s public hearing.

c.bessette@theday.com

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