NAUGATUCK — Volunteers handed in petitions Friday morning in an effort to force a second budget referendum.
Matthew Katra, a former Board of Finance member who has organized the petition efforts, said petitions with more than 1,800 signatures were submitted to force the school and municipal budgets to a vote.
“The Naugatuck voters are once again asking for Mayor Robert Mezzo, the Board of Burgesses and the Finance Board to make additional cuts and to eliminate new spending,” Katra said in a press release.
Borough officials adopted a $113.6 million revised budget this month. The budget represents an increase of about $2.89 million over the 2013-14 spending plan. The budget would cut the mill rate 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 budget is about $1.6 million less than the first spending plan that was overwhelmingly rejected at a referendum in July.
Katra said the cuts made did not go deep enough.
“We have again experienced the reluctance to decrease spending by Mayor Mezzo and his administration in the last adopted budget, but the residents of Naugatuck are now going to have their say in the voting booth,” Katra said in the press release. “Mayor Mezzo and many members of the Joint Boards said they would decrease spending after hearing from the voters, but minimal savings were adopted.”
In a previous interview, Mezzo said it’s unfortunate certain individuals are seeking another referendum despite a tax decrease and reduction in spending. He added there’s 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.
Per borough charter, 1,350 verified signatures from Naugatuck voters are needed to force the referendum. It’s expected to take about two weeks to certify the signatures.
Once enough signatures are certified, the Board of Mayor and Burgesses has five days to meet and set a date for the referendum. The referendum date must be set no earlier than 22 days and no later than 28 days from the date of the meeting, per the charter. A referendum would likely be held in early to mid-October.
If a referendum is forced and the budgets fail, a new budget would have to be adopted within 14 days of the vote. A third referendum could be forced, however if the budgets were rejected a third time the subsequent budgets adopted would be final.