Editorial: Budget referendum isn’t an automatic

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On the surface, an automatic referendum on Naugatuck’s budget seems, in the spirit of March madness, like a slam dunk.

We understand the appeal of having the borough budget go to a public vote, without the need to secure signatures to force a referendum. Especially now, with public angst high after Gov. Dan Malloy proposed his budget—one that doesn’t shy away from new and higher taxes. An automatic referendum would offer the public a sense of empowerment locally, at a time when the public’s feeling of disconnect from state government grows stronger.

We agree that it’s worth the Charter Revision Commission’s time to vet the issue of an automatic referendum in full. However, unless the commission can state an argument for such a referendum we’ve yet to hear, this Charter change is one Naugatuck can do without.

The argument has been made that Naugatuck is a corporation and should be run as such. The mindset of a corporation is solely focused on profits and how to make the profit margin larger, often at the expense of quality and sadly principles. We’ve seen the destruction such a corporate mindset can cause over recent years.

Naugatuck is a non-profit organization and should never take in or spend more than it needs to in order to provide for its residents and maintain a healthy surplus.

However, even a non-profit organization must invest in itself from time to time in order to grow and sustain its viability—Naugatuck is no different.

Whether the investment is in downtown revitalization, teachers, new schools or paving roads, the time will come when such investments must be made to not only maintain the quality of life in the borough, but position Naugatuck for future growth.

Unfortunately, such investments cost money.

It’s human nature to judge the merit of any proposal by how it would personally impact oneself.

Any budget increase more often than not means higher property taxes. No matter the investments made in such a budget for the future, it’s hard to justify any tax increase, and the initial reaction would be to shoot it down.

We look around and see automatic budget referendums in other small towns. It’s only natural to want what others have.

But we also see budget battles that wage on late into the year, pitting school boards against an angry populace. We see small towns often sacrifice investments to appease human nature.

That’s fine for these towns that often wish to simply maintain the status quo. But Naugatuck should want more than the status quo.

This is not to say that a budget increase should be a given each year. Far from it. Investments must be made sooner or later, and our concern is the short-sighted mentality that would most certainly accompany an automatic referendum would be as much a hindrance for future growth as an empowerment for the people.