December 14, 2019

Deep River Selectmen Set May 24 Referendum on Proposed $13.89 Million Town Budget

DEEP RIVER— The board of selectmen has scheduled a May 24 referendum on the proposed $13,896,944 town budget plan for 2011-2012. At a meeting Tuesday, the board also decided to hold a full day of balloting, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Deep River Public Library community room.

The total spending plan includes a $3,617,748 town government budget, a $5,192,900 appropriation for Deep River Elementary School, $699,000 in town and school related debt service costs, and the town’s $4,387,300 share of the Region 4 education budget. The Region 4 total is locked in because the district budget was approved by the voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex in a May 3 referendum. The town government budget is down from current spending by $372,756, while the elementary school budget increases spending by $272,697.

The spending package is expected to require a tax increase of up to 2.55 mills, with most of the projected increase the direct result of an 8 percent drop in the October 2010 grand list of taxable property because last year’s state-mandated town wide revaluation was done in a weak real estate market. The current tax rate is 21.73 mills, or $21.73 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value.

Despite the pending tax increase, the May 3 public hearing on the town government and elementary school budgets drew a sparse turnout. First Selectman Richard Smith said about 30 residents turned out for the hearing, discussing the spending package for about an hour. While there were some questions about staffing in the elementary school budget, Smith said there were no calls for specific changes or reductions in the budget.

In setting the budget referendum date and voting hours, the board discussed the extremely low turnout in the Region 4 referendum, where only 207 of the town’s 3,110 registered voters cast ballots. Smith said some residents had raised questions to him over the past week about sponsoring a referendum with such a low voter turnout.

But after discussion, the selectmen agreed to continue the annual referendum voting on the town budget that began amid a heated local budget battle in 2001. “It’s not a money thing,” said Selectman Art Thompson.

The budget will be up for discussion a final time at the annual budget meeting set for Monday May 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the gymnasium at Deep River Elementary School. The town meeting will adjourn to the referendum vote on Tuesday May 24.