Voters at Tolland’s Town Meeting raise their hands in favor of an article. Most articles passed unanimously, with little discussion.

Reminder Publishing photo by Tyler Lederer

TOLLAND — Tolland’s Town Meeting saw 17 voters passing 17 articles, mostly with little discussion. Selectman Steve DellaGiustina, imitating a horse, cast the only “nay” vote of the night on an article putting $3,000 towards a text-based alert system.

“Just had to do something,” he said.

Most discussion was lent to the $478,924 requested by the Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District for fiscal year 2025. This is $40,625 less than FY24’s $527,665, caused by a decrease from 35 to 29 enrolled Tolland students.

“You never see a school budget go down, but your budget is going down this year,” said Superintendent Jennifer Willard.

Voters asked several questions about out-of-district vocational tuition and transportation costs, which Willard said were being removed from the school district’s budget next year.

“Doesn’t mean the kids can’t go to the programs that they’re going to,” she said. “It just means that the towns will be getting a portion of the foundation [state] aid and then, they will be paying for it, per the towns.”

Willard said only one student from Tolland is expected to attend an out-of-district vocational program next year. Because of that, she said, the town will only pay $20,000 to $21,000 next year, as opposed to the $48,000 she estimated it was paying now.

“You should see a savings next year by removing out-of-district vocational tuitions,” she said.

She later added, “when we have to submit our Oct. 1 [enrollment report], the students will not belong to us, they’re going to belong to the towns, so the towns next year will get Chapter 70 funding to help offset the costs of out-of-district, and it will come off of the school [district]’s foundation budget.”

Willard said this will affect the towns’ assessments.

“Whatever the portion is under the foundation that they would have to pay for us under minimal local contribution, they wouldn’t have to pay that portion,” she said.

The article was passed unanimously.

Voters also passed $1,545,414.87 in budget line items with little discussion. Resident Lise LeTellier asked about increases in the reserve fund and DPW budget. DellaGiustina said the town was running close on reserve funds last year, so it was increased. Public Works Superintendent Kate Donovan said the DPW was looking to hire seasonal workers.

LeTellier also asked why funding for the Visiting Nurse Association was removed. Finance Committee member Margaret McClellan said the town now has a public health nurse it shares with six other towns, set up through a state grant.

Voters also unanimously passed an article appropriating $100,000 from free cash to repair a culvert under Route 57 at the Granville town line, a $200,000 project.

“We took $100,000 from free cash and then, we’d like to raise the next $100,000 through our taxes,” said DellaGiustina.

“Through borrowing, which will hit the taxes over a period” added town counsel Jeremia Pollard.

McClellan said she hadn’t calculated the tax impact of the debt exclusion, but the bond involves paying $40,000 for three years, starting in FY26. Voters seemed to agree that that was better than the millions it could’ve costed, instead.

To that effect, voters unanimously passed a second article afterwards appropriating another $100,000, and allowing the town to, under a debt exclusion, raise the tax levy over the 2.5% limit set by the state law known as Proposition 2½.

At a budget hearing in April, Donovan said the culvert was sagging and at risk of failing, which would cause Route 57 to collapse. She said there’s no good detour heading east from town if the road collapses.

The town’s plan is to slip-line the culvert, or insert a plastic pipe into it to stabilize it and increase the stream’s water flow. This is cheaper than other repair methods and will last at least 50 years, she said.

The debt exclusion question was also on the town election ballot, as it has to be approved both at Town Meeting and at the ballot box. The town election was slated to take place May 21.