Taxpayer group submits petition to force budget vote

Burgess Pat Scully speaks during a public hearing on the budget in May. Chair of Naugatuck Taxpayers in Revolt Alec Wargo submitted petitions to the borough clerk Thursday in an attempt to force a referendum on the $105.5 million budget. FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — The borough budget could be heading to referendum next month.

A group of Naugatuck taxpayers committed to keeping the budget low has submitted a petition to the borough clerk to force a vote on the budget.

Chair of Naugatuck Taxpayers in Revolt Alec Wargo submitted two petitions of signatures Thursday. The group began collecting signatures a few weeks ago when the Joint Boards of Finance and Mayor and Burgesses approved a $105.5 million budget.

“We’d like to thank all the citizens of Naugatuck for participating so they can have a right to vote,” Wargo said.

The separate petitions call for votes on the Board of Education and municipal budgets because the group feels the budgets are too high.

Borough Clerk Nancy DiMeo said she must verify each signature to make sure they come from registered Naugatuck voters and none are duplicated.

“Each one has to be checked off,” she said.

It’s expected to take about a week or so for the borough to review the signatures. To force a referendum, 8 percent of the electorate, or 1,395 people, need to sign the petition.

If enough of the signatures check out, the Board of Mayor and Burgesses will have to meet within five days of certification of the petition to set a referendum date. The referendum will take place 22 to 28 days from the meeting date, DiMeo said.

The joint boards approved the $105.5 million budget May 26. The school budget was approved at $57 million, about a $500,000 or 0.97 percent increase over the current fiscal year. General government appropriations increased about $1.2 million to roughly $48.5 million, a 2.61 percent increase over the current fiscal year.

The budget increases the mill rate by 0.79 mills to 32.81. A mill is worth $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. A property owner whose home is assessed at $200,000 would pay $158 more in taxes.

Wargo said he would like to see reductions in union wages and benefits to town employees.

In a previous interview, Mayor Robert Mezzo said reducing the budget is not as simple as it seems. He said quick fixes to lower the budget in the short term could result in long-term problems for the town.

“If there’s a referendum and the budget’s voted down, we’ll have to consider all options at that point,” Mezzo said previously.