North Stonington sends budget to townwide vote; building-permit fee hike voted down

North Stonington sends budget to townwide vote; building-permit fee hike voted down



NORTH STONINGTON —  Voters in North Stonington concluded Monday’s annual town meeting by sending a proposed $19.9 million in combined education and municipal spending to a June 4 budget referendum.

The budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year would increase the town’s property tax rate by just 0.2 mills, thanks to greater-than-expected state aid to the town from the state budget passed by legislators on May 9.

“It’s on the order of $334,000 more to North Stonington,” Board of Finance Chairman Daniel Spring told the audience of about 60 residents at the meeting.

Officials had originally forecast a 28.7 mill rate, up from the current rate of 28.

A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. A 0.2-mill increase in the property tax rate would mean that the owner of a house with a taxable valuation of $150,000 would pay an additional $30 in taxes instead of $105 as estimated in the earlier budget draft.

While the revenue picture has changed from the public hearing in early May, expenditures haven’t shifted.

The overall budget adds $671,140, or 3.48 percent, to the current $19.2 million in municipal and school spending.

The largest component is the $13.5 million education budget, an increase of 4.97 percent. Capital spending is pegged at $319,592, and the town will make about $1 million in debt payments, including $750,000 in bond principal for the school modernization project and $276,000 toward repayment of a USDA loan for the Center for Emergency Services building, which is scheduled to have a June 23 ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Municipal spending would top $5 million, increasing general government spending by 1.44 percent from $4.99 million this year.

There were seven other items on Monday’s meeting agenda, and voters passed all but one, which would have raised the fees the Building Department charges for construction and renovation permits. They’ve been unchanged since 1994, and officials said the additional revenue is needed to keep the office running smoothly at a time of increased development in town. The measure failed on a 30-27 hand-count vote.

“Without the increase we will have a shortfall in that budget area where the higher fees were built-in,” First Selectman Michael Urgo said. “But we will figure it out.”

Other items that passed on voice votes included $65,000 for PCB testing and remediation at the elementary school, and changes to portions of some town ordinances, mainly to bring them up-to-date.

Voters also approved allowing the town to sell its condo office space in the Holly Green retail complex and to authorize the Board of Selectmen to borrow up to $1 million at a time without going to voters at a town meeting in emergency situations.

They also agreed the town should accept a parcel at 123A Clarks Falls Road that is the site of the former Unity Baptist Church and is owned by the North Stonington Baptist Church.

The town has been working with the church to find a way to dispose of the land, which currently can only be used by a church due to a deed restriction. The restriction would be lifted if the town were to take possession and then either sell it or give it back to the Baptist church, according to officials.

North Stonington’s budget referendum will take place from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 4 at New Town Hall.

rblessing@thewesterlysun.com


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