Borough budgets pass due to low turnout

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NAUGATUCK — Nearly four months into the fiscal year the borough has a budget.

Naugatuck’s 2015-16 municipal and schools budgets passed Tuesday after the voter turnout at a referendum failed to reach the 15-percent threshold for the results to count.

Just 2,348 voters cast their ballot Tuesday, falling 109 short of the required 2,457 voters needed to validate the referendum.

“I guess the majority of voters were pleased with the budget,” Board of Finance Chairwoman Diane Scinto said. “The borough now has a budget, which is a good thing.”

The $115.26 million total budget is an increase in spending of $2.3 million, or 2 percent, over the 2014-15 budget. The spending plan increases the mill rate from 44.27 mills to 45.57 mills, a 2.93 percent increase.

The municipal budget is $53.6 million, an increase of about $1.5 million, or 2.9 percent.

The school budget is $61.68 million, an increase of $770,651, or about 1.24 percent.

Board of Education Chairman David Heller said the board is happy it can finally allow the schools to utilize the full budget. The board only released 50 percent of the supply funds to schools in anticipation of the referendum.

“The Board of Education is very pleased we now have a budget for the school year since the year is already one month over. We are very excited to be able move forward with the budget the superintendent worked so hard on. We will continue to do everything we can to spend money wisely and economically,” Heller said.

The vast majority of those who voted Tuesday did so against the municipal and school budgets.

“The problem with the budget is it’s way too high. On top of that, I’ve never seen a more screwed up budget in my life,” resident Bill Kovacs said.

The municipal budget was rejected by those who did vote, with 2,153 people voting “no: too high,” 66 voting “yes” and 13 “no: too low.”

The vote on the school budget followed a similar pattern. The voters that came out rejected the school budget by a count of 2,090 “no: too high,” 221 “yes” and 17 “no: too low.”

Kovacs, who said he served on the Board of Finance in Seymour for 10 years, offered a couple of suggestions of where the budget could be cut.

“I spent 10 years of Seymour’s finance board and I never came across a place where the [Water Pollution Control Authority] is part of the town budget. It should be a separate entity. And I never saw a town own a golf course. They ought to get rid of that quick,” Kovacs said.

Residents Peg and Ray Donnelly said they voted in hopes of lowering the budget.

“They’re just spending, spending, spending; so lower it. The people aren’t upper class in Naugatuck. We are average people,” Peg Donnelly said.

Ray Donnelly echoed his wife’s statements.

“People are strapped. We don’t have the money,” he said.

Tuesday’s referendum was the second one this year. The first budget proposal, a $115.8 million spending plan, was soundly rejected at a referendum in July. Borough officials reduced spending by nearly $525,000 following the first vote.

Republican Registrar of Voters Matthew Katra, who has spearheaded previous pushes for a referendum, called the failure of Tuesday’s referendum to meet the required turnout “disappointing.”

“I don’t think it shows that people are OK with the budget. You saw the results from the 2,300 people that did vote, and that’s ‘no, too high,’” Katra said.

Katra felt the first referendum, the primary last week and the election coming in November led to the low turnout Tuesday.

“They didn’t turn out to vote, obviously,” Katra said.