Notification of referendum comes under question

NAUGATUCK — The same man who organized a petition to send the proposed town and school budgets to referendum on Tuesday is accusing the borough of not doing enough to notify people about the budget.

Matt Katra notified officials this week that they had violated the borough charter provision outlining how the public must be notified of budget details.

The provision states that local officials must publish a notification in a newspaper with a general circulation in town that includes a line-by-line breakdown of all proposed department budgets. Per the charter, that notification must be in the newspaper at least seven days before the referendum, which is on Tuesday.

When Katra notified the borough on Wednesday, Controller Bob Butler called the Republican-American and was able to get the notice in Thursday’s newspaper. Still, Katra says he’s disappointed in borough officials.

“They made us follow the process for a petition to a T, with getting 8 percent of registered voters and getting the paperwork in on time,” he said. “And they themselves did not follow the standards.”

Borough officials say they have not attempted to circumvent the democratic process.

Butler said that in recent referendums, he cannot remember one where the itemized department budgets have been printed in the newspaper. He also noted that the budget has been on the borough’s website for several weeks and that it has been written about numerous times in various news outlets, as has the referendum.

He questioned Katra’s timing of notifying the borough of the alleged charter violation — after the seven-day deadline had passed.

“This is all just part of the game,” Butler said.

Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi said the public has been informed of the budget numerous times and that it has been very clear that the referendum will be held on Tuesday.

“We’re not looking to impede democracy at all,” she said. “This is a democratic process and the public has been well informed throughout this process.”

In an email to Butler, Katra states the borough should put a sign on the Town Green notifying people to vote and should consider sending out a CodeRed notification, usually used for emergencies, telling people about the referendum. It does not appear the borough will do either of those things.

The budget is usually set by the Board of Finance and Board of Mayor and Burgesses.

The approved budget is $115.2 million. The budget represents an increase in spending of $4.33 million, or 3.91 percent.

The municipal budget is $53.9 million, an increase of $2.5 million or 4.87 percent. The school budget is $61.3 million, an increase of $1.8 million or 3.07 percent.

The budget will increase the mill rate 0.26 mills to 45.06 mills.

The public can petition to send it to referendum, which is what happened this year.

A referendum on the budget is Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Naugatuck Historical Society Museum, 195 Water St.

Fifteen percent of eligible voters need to go to the polls in order for the outcome of the referendum to count.

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