NORTH STONINGTON — The Board of Selectmen, presented with a petition signed by 210 voters, on Tuesday canceled the town budget meeting and referendum that had been scheduled, respectively, for June 17 and June 25. They did not decide on new dates.
Former First Selectman Shawn Murphy had circulated the petition, which called for changing the wording of the upcoming budget referendum to allow for split votes on municipal, capital, and school spending. In the first referendum, the budget, framed as a single question, was voted down 498-266 on May 20.
First Selectman Mike Urgo said that 210 signatures by North Stonington voters were verified as valid by the town clerk on Monday afternoon. Two hundred signatures were needed to force the issue.
“Because the language of the petition was unusual and different from what had been ever proposed as far as a call for a town meeting, I sent it to the town attorney to have him weigh in on it,” Urgo said at the selectmen's meeting Tuesday night. “The town attorney is still looking into it to give their opinion on this.”
“I’ve already told the town attorney I want to find a way to make these voices heard, so they are working on it right now,” Urgo said. “What I think is going to happen is in order to stay on track, I’m hoping the town attorney will get back to us soon.”
The selectmen, he said, will have to meet and reschedule the town meeting and referendum.
Urgo recommended that selectmen not discuss the subject publicly until the town attorney, Robert Avena, advises on the matter.
“The goal of the Selectmen is to get a good budget passed so tax bills can be in mailboxes by Aug. 1,” Urgo said in a written statement. "Under normal circumstances they would be in mailboxes by July.”
“We have analyzed our cash flow and pushing the billing back one month will work for the town’s operations,” Urgo wrote. “Should subsequent budgets be disapproved, we will re-analyze our cash flow and determine if we will need to set a mill rate with the potential of sending supplemental tax bills out at an additional cost.”
After the meeting, Murphy said, “Now it’s just a wait and see.” He noted that according to state statutes, the town is required to comply with the petition’s request for three questions on the ballot since the petition was signed and verified.
“Someone is just looking for a way out,” Murphy said.
The proposed budget for 2019-20 for North Stonington is $20,276,572, which includes an operating budget of $5,008,099, debt service of $1,065,184, an education budget of $13,775,463, and a capital improvement budget of $427,826.
The operating budget is 1.23 percent lower than last year’s. The total budget is 1.73 percent higher.
The proposed budget is available on the Town of North Stonington website.