NORTH STONINGTON — Town residents gave the thumbs up to the 2019-20 budget at a second budget referendum on Tuesday.
The budget was voted down 498-266 at the first referendum on May 20.
This time, 854 voters passed the budget, which was split into three questions because of a petition circulated in June.
For question 1, which addressed the operating budget, the vote was 457-371. For question 2, regarding the capital projects budget, the vote was 453-373. On question 3, regarding the education budget, the vote was 445-382.
The second budget referendum was postponed from its original June 17 date due to the petition circulated by former First Selectman Shawn Murphy, which called for the referendum to have split votes on municipal, capital and education spending, rather than have all three budgets in one question.
The petition was subsequently found to be invalid by North Stonington attorney Robert Avena. However, the Board of Selectmen decided to comply with the petition’s request to split the budget questions into three parts.
First Selectman Mike Urgo noted Tuesday that if any of the questions had been voted down individually, that would mean the entire budget was not approved.
“I’m really happy about the good turnout, and very proud of the work the boards and commissioners did to help people get informed about the budget,” Urgo said. “We will continue to move initiatives forward and get to work.”
A steady stream of residents visited the New Town Hall Tuesday afternoon to cast their votes on the budget.
Resident Laurie Dunn said she had just moved to North Stonington but she thought it was important to vote “yes” for the education question.
Calling the budget “a little pricey,” Wade Appleton said he had voted “no” to all three budget questions regarding education, the capital budget and the municipal budget.
Resident Randy Paquette, who teaches physics at Rhode Island College and has lived in town for six years, said he was in favor of the budget, especially education, because it’s “the main area hit” during budget time.
“As an educator I support it,” Paquette said. “People like to stir up a lot of misinformation about the budget.”
“I feel like the elected officials are doing the best they can,” Paquette went on. “This is the most I’ve ever seen done in this town.” Paquette added the town was “fortunate the school got built,” referring to the new Wheeler Middle and High School, which opened in March.
But resident Julie Logan, who voted “no” to the education budget, said the town had already spent too much on education and built enough schools.
Emily Seison said she “was not a fan of the budget at all because our taxes are already high enough,” and said she had voted “no” to all three questions.
North Stonington’s total budget is $20,475,788, with an education budget of $13,825,463, an operating budget of $5,067,915, a debt service of $1,009,694 and a capital budget of $572,716. The mill rate is .29, which is average for similar-size towns, and expenditure per student is $15,711.