Residents submit petitions for referendum

NAUGATUCK — It appears residents will have a vote on how much money the borough will spend next year.

Residents who organized a petition drive to send the budget to referendum believe they have collected enough signatures. They submitted lists with about 2,000 signatures to Borough Clerk Nancy DiMeo last week, DiMeo said.

To force the referendum, they needed to collect 1,350 signatures for both the town and school budget proposals for the 2016-17 fiscal year, which begins July 1. Petitioners always get more than necessary to ensure they have enough.

DiMeo will spend the next week or so verifying the signatures. In the likely case that there are enough signatures to force the vote, borough officials will set a referendum date.

Though petitioners submitted petitions to send the school budget to a vote, there is not much, if anything, that is likely to be gained from voting on the proposal. That proposed budget of $61.6 million shows no increase over the current budget, and therefore, state law says the town cannot take anything out of that budget request.

“I believe we have to have a referendum (on the school budget) even though we are powerless to decrease it,” Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said.

The proposed town budget, however, can be reduced, and even Hess said he hopes it will.

The proposal calls for $58.2 million in town spending next year, which is $4.5 million, or 8.55 percent, over the current.

Overall, the combined budgets of $119.9 million is an increase of 4 percent over the current budget. The proposed tax rate would increase 4.17 mills, or 9.1 percent, from 45.57 mills this year to 49.74 mills in 2016-17.

Based upon the tax rate, the owner of a house worth $200,000 would pay $581 more in taxes next year than he or she did this year. The tax bill on that house would increase from $6,379 to $6,963.

The major cost drivers in the budget are that the borough has to put aside $1.3 million to pay bonding bills for the $81 million renovate to new high school project. And the borough anticipates losing $3 million in revenue from a shutdown at the incinerator at the wastewater treatment plant.

Hess, who pushed for a referendum this year to give him more time to work out cost-saving solutions, said he believes that plan just might work.

On Sunday night, he said he will not make guarantees that he can find significant savings between now and the time the budget needs to be adopted, but he said he believes he can.

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