May 7, 2021

Deep River Town Meeting Approves $123,228 in Additional Appropriations

DEEP RIVER— Voters at a town meeting Tuesday approved a total of $123,228 in additional appropriations under four categories in the 2011-2012 town budget, including a $44,549 appropriation for Deep River Elementary School that generated the most discussion at the town meeting.

Town officials outnumbered residents at the town meeting, where the three selectmen were joined by Town Clerk Amy Winchell, and residents Margo Hilfinger and Richard Strukus, who attend most town meetings as the video crew for the Deep River Taxpayers Association. Volunteers from the taxpayers association have been filming town meetings and meetings of the board of selectmen for more than a decade for later showing on the Comcast public access channel.

The additional appropriations includes $42,569 for town hall operations, specifically fuel oil and gasoline and diesel for town vehicles, $22,707 for special services for contingency expenses and a lease payment on a copier, $13,403 for police protection, specifically overtime for the resident state trooper and vehicle maintenance, and $44,549 for the elementary school.

It was the appropriation for the elementary school that generated more than a half-hour of discussion at the meeting. First Selectman Richard Smith said he was advised by the school board and administration that over-expenditures for special education led the school district to miss a payment for employee pensions, which are managed by the town. Smith said when the school district made the pension payment, it generated most of the $44,549 over-expenditure.

Hilfinger and Strukus each questioned the overexpenditure, contending the local board of education should have advised the selectmen and board of finance of the overrun in special education costs sooner, and made budget reductions over the fiscal year that ended June 30 to cover the required pension payment. Smith said school officials have pledged to provide monthly updates of spending from the education budget to reduce the chances of a large budget overrun in the future.

The four additional appropriations were approved on a voice vote, with Strukus opposed. Smith said budget savings and new revenue, including higher rental payments for a cellular phone tower on town property, are expected to cover all of the additional appropriations for the 2011-2012 budget without the need for a transfer from the town’s undesignated fund balance.