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Preston finances mean many meetings

By Claire Bessette

Publication: The Day

Published March 21. 2013 4:00AM

Preston - Voters will get their fill of budgets, public hearings, town meetings and referendums this spring, as the Board of Finance anticipates separate schedules for reviewing the annual budget and a new proposed five-year capital improvement plan.

The board reviewed capital plans from the various town departments and the Board of Education Wednesday. Members quickly realized the town could save about $50,000 in legal and financing fees by bonding the proposed $2 million capital plan along with the $2 million voters approved in December for the cleanup of the former Norwich Hospital.

The Preston Redevelopment Agency needs its funding by mid-April, when current grant money for the cleanup will be used up. The town's $2 million bond will be matched by a low-interest $2 million state loan, and borrowing the money in April will allow demolition contractor Manafort Bros. to remain on the job uninterrupted, PRA member Jim Bell told the finance board Wednesday.

The finance board will continue discussing the capital plan next Wednesday and on April 3. Chairman Jerry Grabarek proposed holding a public hearing on the capital plan April 4, a town meeting on April 11 and a referendum on April 23.

The regular budget process will go to the voters shortly afterward. The budget town meeting is planned for May 7, with a referendum yet to be scheduled. The general government budget for 2013-14 is proposed at $3.4 million, while the school budget is proposed at $10.9 million.

The proposed capital plan includes $450,000 for a new tanker fire truck, $180,000 for two new snow plows and $560,000 to purchase six new school buses.

A $105,000 plan to add air conditioning to the Preston Plains Middle School led to questions by finance board member Leslie Kornosewicz on whether the middle school building might be closed soon in a consolidation plan.

Preston enrollment has been declining steadily, and the new Preston Veterans' Memorial School is large enough for all students in the future. But Superintendent John Welch said the discussion is "on the back burner," and would take at least five years to consummate.

Even so, he said, it's likely the middle school building would still be used for school and perhaps town offices.

Because of snow days, the last day of school this year is June 21, and Welch said the second floor of the middle school becomes very uncomfortable in summer.

c.bessette@theday.com

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