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Preston budgets headed to voters; process begins with capital spending plan

By Claire Bessette

Publication: The Day

Published April 18. 2013 4:00AM

Preston - The budget season gets busy next week for town residents and the Board of Finance, starting with a referendum Tuesday on the proposed $1.78 million capital plan budget and followed by meetings Wednesday and Thursday to solidify proposed town and school budgets.

The finance board last week approved a $1,788,000 five-year capital plan budget that includes $750,000 for two new firetrucks, $110,000 for air conditioning for Preston Plains Middle School, $270,000 for three plow trucks and $275,000 for three school buses.

The referendum on the capital plan alone will be held Tuesday. Town officials separated the capital budget from the regular town and school budget referendum to speed up the process of bonding for both the capital plan and the $2 million the town will bond for the cleanup of the former Norwich Hospital property.

Work on the 2013-14 town and school budgets also continues next week. The Board of Finance will hold a workshop meeting April 24 to discuss the $10.6 million proposed school budget, the $3.4 million town budget and revenues to cover the budget.

Board of Finance Chairman Jerry Grabarek said Wednesday that the board will not make changes to the budget that night, because members already voted to send the requested budgets as presented to residents at next Thursday's budget public hearing.

During recent meetings, however, discussion has centered on possible cuts to the school budget to bring it to this year's $10.4 million total, and eliminating proposed 3 percent raises for Town Hall employees. The raises total about $16,000 in the town budget.

For the past five years, the school budget has been flat-funded at about $10.4 million, and yet the board returned surplus funding totaling about $500,000 over the five-year period to the town, including $250,000 last year. Superintendent John Welch said at a recent finance board meeting that he expects to return some money this year as well.

The finance board will hold a special meeting following the public hearing to vote on the budgets to be presented at a May 2 town meeting.

Changes could be made that night before the final budgets go to referendum May 14.

c.bessette@theday.com

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Preston budget schedule

• April 23: Referendum on $1,788,000 five-year capital improvements plan. Polls open noon to 8 p.m., Town Hall.
• April 24: Board of Finance budget workshop meeting, 7 p.m., Town Hall.
• April 25: Board of Finance public hearing on proposed $10.6 million school budget and $3.4 million town government budget, 7:30 p.m., Preston Veterans' Memorial School. Special Board of Finance meeting follows the public hearing.
• May 2: Annual budget town meeting, 7:30 p.m., Preston Veterans' Memorial School.
• May 14: Budget referendum, Town Hall. Poll hours to be set at town meeting.

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