Referendum date set

Naugatuck Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi, left, and Mayor Robert Mezzo discuss the upcoming referendum vote on the municipal and Board of Education budgets during the Board of Mayor and Burgesses meeting Tuesday. –LUKE MARSHALL

Naugatuck Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi, left, and Mayor Robert Mezzo discuss the upcoming referendum vote on the municipal and Board of Education budgets during the Board of Mayor and Burgesses meeting Tuesday. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Voters will have their say on the borough budget later this month.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses set a referendum on the 2014-15 budget for July 29. Voting will take place from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. at the Naugatuck Historical Society Museum, 195 Water St.

The Joint Boards of Finance and Mayor and Burgesses approved a $115.2 million budget for the fiscal year on May 29. The budget represents an increase in spending of $4.33 million, or 3.91 percent, over the current budget.

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.

Shortly after the budget was approved a successful petition effort was started to force the referendum.

Former Board of Finance member Matthew Katra was among the organizers of the petition effort. Katra said, in an interview in June, the referendum is needed because the budget increase is too high.

“The adopted Naugatuck budget will increase spending at a time when Naugatuck residents have said that they cannot support another tax increase. The new mill rate of 45.06 mills will put additional strains on families and senior citizens, who live paycheck to paycheck,” Katra said previously.

On Tuesday Katra came before the board to request the referendum be changed to a Tuesday and that more than one voting location be opened. The board was originally looking to set the date for Wednesday, July 23.

While the board voted in favor of moving the date, the consensus was the cost of opening more voting locations would be an unnecessary expense.

According to Controller Robert Butler it costs $4,800 to open the train station as a voting location and $15,000 to open all locations.

The referendum offers three ways to vote on the municipal and Board of Education budgets: Yes, no: too high, or no: too low. The turnout must be at least 15 percent, or approximately 2,500, of registered voters in order for the results to count.

If either budget is rejected, both will fail. The joint boards will have to look over the entire budget again and make cuts.

Although the referendum is taking place four weeks after the new fiscal year began, the borough and school board are obligated to pay certain bills to keep the town functioning.

Butler said the borough tries not to spend more than the previous fiscal year during this time.

“We have to spend certain amounts of money but what we try to do is not spend above what we spent last year,” Butler said. “We have to keep the operations going.”

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