Another referendum likely

NAUGATUCK — A second budget referendum looks to be in the cards for Naugatuck.

Former Board of Finance member Matthew Katra, who spearheaded the first petition effort, confirmed that he and other residents are collecting signatures to force a referendum on the revised 2014-15 budget.

Borough officials adopted a $113.6 million revised budget last week. The budget represents an increase of about $2.89 million over the 2013-14 spending plan.

Under the plan, the mill rate will go down 0.13 mills to 44.67 mills. A resident whose home is worth $150,000 will pay $20 less in property taxes under the new mill rate.

The revised budget is about $1.6 million less than the original budget plan rejected at a referendum in July.

Katra said he is trying to force another referendum because he wants residents to have a chance to vote.

“I’ve been very clear and vocal that we should have the opportunity to vote on every budget. We should give the residents their right to vote. It’s the only time, besides the public hearing, they have their say on the budget,” Katra said.

Katra also argued the cuts made after the first budget failed weren’t enough.

“Most of the changes they made this time around were pushing the debt off rather than making long-term changes and saving for the taxpayers,” Katra said.

About 1,350 signatures have to be collected by Aug. 26 to force another vote.
Katra said the petition effort is going well.

“So far it’s been going good. We have a lot of signatures,” Katra said.

Mayor Robert Mezzo said he’s not surprised by the petition effort, since signatures were being collected before the budget was adopted.

“It is unfortunate that certain individuals will be seeking another referendum despite a tax decrease and reduction in spending. It is not surprising, however, since certain individuals were soliciting petition signatures even before the revised budget was adopted,” Mezzo said.

Mezzo said that there was not much more officials could cut from the budget.

“At this late point in the process, there is very little left to cut; certainly not enough that will have any meaningful impact to the average home, car or business owner,” Mezzo said.

While the budget hangs in the balance, Mezzo said the borough maintains the ability to operate its local government. His greatest concern is the impact that a potential second referendum would have on the school district.

“With so many reductions in certified staff already, it is important to attract quality teachers to replace those fewer positions that are actually being filled. Unfortunately, it appears that we will not start the school year with a budget in place. This makes working in Naugatuck schools less attractive for some candidates because they know they could be the first teachers laid off if further reductions are approved. I sincerely hope that another referendum ultimately does not have a negative impact on the quality of education and class size,” Mezzo said.

Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke said the board is currently working to not spend anymore than it spent last year.

“We’ve imposed internal budget freezes on things like instructional supplies, textbooks, audiovisual equipment and office supplies to try to control the expenses while we start the school year,” Locke said.

Locke added the school board is confident borough officials will support the school system.

“We were pleased with the support we got from the joint boards on [Aug. 12] and are confident they will work with us to ensure our kids continue to get a high quality education,” Locke said.

Residents who want to sign a petition to send the proposed Naugatuck town and school budget to referendum can do so at the following locations: Cindy’s Grocery, 18 May St., Personal Pampering, 170 Church St., The Pour House, 175 Church St., Terri’s Flowers, 185 Church St, Rebimbas Wine Shop, 178 Maple St., Johns Restaurant, 111 Rubber Ave., Tequila Grill, 9 Church St., Sunoco, 1059 Rubber Ave., Paesanos Restaurant, 434 Rubber Ave., G&A Variety Store, 149 Maple St., Bellissimo’s Pizza, 686 Rubber Ave., Fine Wine & Liquor, 5 Meadow St., Sokol’s Karate for Kids, Mounview Plaza, Mobil Gas Station, 469 Rubber Ave., Paiva Liquor Store, 161 Rubber Ave., Mobil Gas Station, 282 South Main St.

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