Moments after the Legislative Council voted to send the 2014-15 town and school budget requests to referendum, resident and longtime school supporter Kinga Walsh thanked officials for their efforts. She also challenged them to help get it passed, asking council members to work side-by-side with other advocates promoting passage of the spending plan.
Several council members have already stepped up, agreeing to produce videos talking about why they voted for the proposal and why they believe taxpayers should as well. Voters will make up their minds on the bifurcated, or split, town and school budgets April 22 when they are called to the Newtown Middle School to cast their votes between 6 am and 8 pm.
On April 2, the council endorsed sending a request for $111,066,204 to voters to cover town and school services, along with annual debt service for capital projects, which is carried in the Board of Selectmen budget.
While the approved budget request represents a 0.91 percent increase above the current year, because of updated revenue projections, the spending plan requires 0.02 percent less in taxation than the current operating budget — and will require a 2014-15 tax rate of 33.31 mills, representing no change, or what is commonly termed “zero increase.”
Those added revenues included $562,000 in grand list growth, $275,000 in additional supplemental motor vehicle taxes, and $152,000 in unanticipated or previously unbudgeted state grants and payments.
Voters will decide on separate requests by the Board of Education for $71,345,304 (0.42 percent increase), and the Board of Selectmen for $39,720,900 (1.78 percent increase), which includes debt service of $10,342,994 (2.8 percent increase).
As a result of a recent charter change, eligible voters will be asked to approve or reject each budget line, as well as an advisory question on whether they believe each budget request is too low.
During her brief video, Council Chair Mary Ann Jacob said the current budget proposal faced an extreme level of scrutiny by town and school officials involved in the process
“From the beginning, all the players involved have been very conscious of the fact that most of our citizens suffered a pretty severe tax increase last year, and wanted to do their best to mitigate it while making sure the services we all need in town are available,” Ms Jacob said.
She cited added funds to maintain a group of armed school security officers (SSOs), added funds for road repairs, and fully funding the town’s self-insured health benefit program.
Council colleagues Robert Merola, Dan Amaral, and Vice Chair Neil Chaudhary are among officials planning to produce similar video messages in the coming days.
Town Clerk Debbie Aurelia Halstead advises that pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Sec. 7-6, any person who is a registered voter in the Town of Newtown or who is a US citizen who is assessed at least $1,000 for real estate or motor vehicles on the 2013 Grand List for the Town of Newtown is qualified to vote at the referendum.
Absentee ballots are now available for the referendum during office hours Monday through Friday, 8 am to 4:30 pm. The town clerk’s office will have special hours on Saturday, April 19, from 9 am to noon for the sole purpose of absentee ballot voting on the above questions.
Any qualified person who meets any of the following criteria may vote by absentee ballot: 1) active service in the armed forces; 2) absence from the town during all the hours of voting; 3) illness; 4) physical disability; 5) religious tenets which forbid secular activity on the day of the referendum; 6) duties as a referendum official at a polling place other than their own during all the hours of voting.
For a referendum held with less than three weeks notice, voters may obtain an absentee ballot by applying at the town clerk’s office in person or designating one of the following to be your designee: 1) a person caring for the voter because of illness, including but not limited to a licensed physician or a registered practical nurse; 2) a member of a voter’s family; 3) a police officer in the municipality in which the voter resides, or; 4) a registrar of voters or deputy registrar of voters in the municipality in which the voter resides.
Absentee ballots can be returned in person to the town clerk by 4:30 pm Monday, April 21,or by mail or designee before the closing of the polls on Referendum day — 8 pm, April 22. Anyone with questions may contact the town clerk’s office at 203-270-4210.