News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, February 21, 2013
Town warrant holds few surprises at Stonington Town Meeting
Budget up $63,275

The Stonington Selectmen signed the municipal warrant for the 2013 budget at their February 11 meeting without a word. They had said all they had to say at the previous meetings in January and February.

The budget is up from last year’s $1,338,084 to $1,401,359, an increase of $63,275.

Much of the increase can be laid to increased costs for heating and asphalt, but Town Manager Kathleen Billings-Pezaris said in a telephone interview that any increase in taxes won’t come from the town budget. As they met throughout last month, the selectmen said they hoped the school budget, which accounts for roughly two-thirds of a resident’s tax bill, would also be kept low.

There is only one article in the warrant expected to raise discussion, and that is Article 28: “To see what sum of money the Town will vote to raise and appropriate for Stonington Shellfish Conservation Committee. The selectmen recommend $13,500. The Shellfish Conservation Committee, previously known as the Clam Committee, had appeared before the selectmen several times in the past few months.

The income from the sale of licenses has not covered the expense of a warden, and this amount is needed to bridge the gap. Because of the way the article is worded, with the recommendation not embedded in the text, the townspeople can change the amount from the floor.

The administration account, article 12, which covers the physical material involved in running the town, like postage, print advertising, legal services and employee training, is up from $75,500 in the 2012 budget to $78,000 in the 2013 budget. In 2012 the town spent $80,448 on that budget line.

The health insurance is up from $33,007 to $44,500. The amount paid by employees has also increased.

Administrative salaries are up by $2,020 from $124,908 in the 2012 budget to $132,976 in this year’s budget, but the actual cost in 2012 was $126,190.

It is no surprise that the costs for heating the town hall have gone up. Before the jump in fuel costs, the 2012 budget was $5,000 for heat, but that was almost $2,500 less than was used. This year’s request is for $8,000, which brings the cost of operating the town hall to $19,000.

One budget line that has gone down is the amount allocated for the Animal Control Officer. Since there is no ACO at the moment, the budget line is down from last year’s $13,250 to $10,250. Almost $9,000 of the $13,250 budgeted last year was un-spent because the town has not found a replacement for Charles Berhalter, the former ACO, who died.

Article 36 covers the transfer station. This year the line for maintenance at the transfer station is up from last year’s $7,000 to $10,500, mostly to cover the cost of siding the small building, which has been in danger of falling apart.

On the other hand, the amount budgeted to cover transportation at the transfer station is down from $35,000 to $34,000. The total transfer station budget is up from last year’s $225,000 to $228,480. Last year the amount spent on the transfer station was less than the amount budgeted: $202,200.

There is a note in the warrant after Article 36, which reads: “The town receives tipping fee reimbursements from MRC of about $28,000 in revenues to offset Transfer Station costs.”

The road maintenance budget, which does not include winter roads, is up from the 2012 requested $198,700 to $238,350. The cost of tar is up, and that is reflected in the amount budgeted, up from $120,000 to $150,000. Wages and workers’ comp are up as well.

The winter roads budget, which was not stretched last year because of lack of snow, is up by approximately $6,000, to $56,600. That is because of an added $6,000 to the road equipment line, to be used toward the purchase of a truck.

Stonington has dispensed with the services of an economic development director, and so Article 29 requests $5,000 instead of the $15,000 in last year’s budget. Of that amount, $7,200 was wages.

Stonington voters will head to the polls at the town hall on Monday, March 4, from 8 a.m. to noon. The business portion of town meeting will begin at 3 p.m. also at the town hall.