Preston voters reject both town, school budgets

Preston — Voters rejected the town and school budgets Tuesday, meaning tax bills will be late for the second consecutive year.

Voters shot down the $12.1 million proposed 2019-20 school budget 362-319, and defeated the proposed $3.9 million town government budget by a narrow 349-330 tally. Turnout was about 19 percent.

Board of Finance Chairman Gerald Grabarek said there was no point in holding the scheduled post-vote special meeting, because the earliest the board could schedule a second referendum would be July 2, during the holiday week. He and First Selectman Robert Congdon agreed it would not be appropriate to hold the budget vote during the holiday week.

The Board of Finance will meet next Wednesday, June 19, to discuss possible cuts to the town and school budgets, whether to hold a second public hearing to learn why voters rejected the budgets and schedule a second referendum for later in July. The fiscal year begins July 1.

Last year, the school budget took three tries to be approved, and residents did not receive tax bills until October. Town officials prioritized spending and used town surplus funds to pay bills early in the fiscal year.

Congdon said Tuesday it was hard to tell why voters rejected the budgets. The town government budget had a 12.56 percent increase, with nearly all of it to cover a proposal to double the town fire department budget to hire enough per diem firefighters/EMTs to cover nearly all shifts. Fire Chief Tom Casey said the town's lack of volunteers had reached a critical point.

The $12.1 million school budget, a 2.37 percent increase, included funding for a part-time social worker, 2.5 paraeducators and increased hours for several positions.

Residents made no changes to either budgets during the May 30 town meeting.

c.bessette@theday.com

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