NAUGATUCK — The borough’s 2014-15 budget is heading back to the drawing board.
Voters overwhelmingly rejected the adopted municipal and school budgets at a referendum Tuesday. Nearly 25 percent of voters turned out, easily surpassing the 15 percent required by the borough Charter to validate the results.
The total budget was $115.2 million budget, which represented an increase in spending of $4.33 million, or 3.91 percent. The mill rate would have increased 0.26 mills to 45.06 mills.
The municipal budget was $53.9 million, an increase of $2.5 million or 4.87 percent. The school budget was $61.3 million, an increase of $1.8 million or 3.07 percent.
The budgets were voted on separately and each was defeated by more than 3,500 votes.
The municipal budget was rejected with 3,831 people voting no: too high, 194 voting yes and 24 no: too low votes.
For the school budget, 3,658 people voted no: too high, 320 voted yes and 48 voted no: too low.
The referendum was forced by a petition effort.
For former Board of Finance member Matthew Katra, who helped spearhead the petition effort, seeing voters turn out and vote the budget down was a conformation of his actions.
“We had a turnout equal or greater to some of the municipal elections. It’s definitely a clear turnout and a clear result. The joint boards need to go back and make some serious cuts,” Katra said.
For residents like Diane Buffington the budget increase was too high.
“Taxes are too high already. They don’t need to go up anymore,” Buffington said.
Resident Gloria Delprincipe said she voted in the referendum because people can’t afford an increase in the budget.
“There’s got to be somewhere they can cut the budget,” Delprincipe said.
Katra said people are concerned about increasing taxes.
“They don’t see any end. We had many people during this time saying, ‘My taxes are higher than my mortgage. I can’t afford the taxes anymore on my car,’” Katra said.
Mayor Robert Mezzo said the overwhelming vote against the budget was expected.
“Generally budgets that ask ‘are your taxes too high’ are voted down. That’s been the history in Naugatuck since the budget process was started,” Mezzo said.
The Joint Boards of Finance and Mayor and Burgesses will meet Thursday night to discuss the budget.
Mezzo said he will review the budget numbers with staff on Wednesday to discuss where cuts can be made. He said it’s too early to say where the cuts would be made, but that the boards would make cuts.
“Painful cuts have been made already. This is part of the process. The taxpayers have indicated they wanted more cuts,” Mezzo said.
A public hearing on the revised budget is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 4 at City Hill Middle School. The joints boards will adopt a new budget Aug. 12.
At that point citizens could force the budget to a second referendum through another petition.
Katra said he will wait until the public hearing to decide whether he will try to force another referendum on the budget.