NAUGATUCK — Voters will have their say on the borough’s proposed 2015-16 budget.
A referendum on the municipal and school budgets is July 7 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the former train station, 195 Water St. The municipal and school budgets will be voted on separately. Residents will be asked to vote yes; no, too high; or no, too low on both budgets.
The total proposed budget is $115.8 million, which is an increase of $2.8 million, or 2.5 percent, over the 2014-15 budget. The proposed budget increases the mill rate from 44.27 mills to 45.99 mills. The mill rate is the amount of taxes payable on the assessed value of a property. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value. The median valued house in Naugatuck, which is assessed at $110,740, would see a $170 jump in real estate taxes in fiscal year 2015-16, under the proposal.
The proposed municipal budget is $53.8 million, an increase of $1.7 million, or 3.3 percent, over the current budget. The proposed school budget is $62 million, an increase of $1.1 million, or 1.8 percent, over current education spending.
The referendum was forced through a petition process. At least 15 percent of registered voters need to vote in the referendum for the results to count.
Matthew Katra, who spearheaded the push for the referendum, said that he wants residents to get out and vote.
“I hope to see every taxpayer, every voter down at the train station, casting their ballot,” Katra said.
When he handed in the petitions into Town Hall in late May, Katra said voters should have the right to vote on the budget every year. He said at the time that the borough’s high mill rate is a deterrent to businesses looking to move into Naugatuck.
Board of Finance Chairwoman Diane Scinto said she would like residents to read and review the budget before casting their vote. She said if residents do vote against the budget, she would like them to offer suggestions on where they would like to see cuts made.
Throughout the budget process, borough officials have said their hands are tied with some of the largest expenses in the budget, like insurance, which are fixed costs.
The school board’s insurance cost is going up $1.13 million, which is higher than the overall school budget increase. Some of the largest cost drivers in the municipal budget increase are $400,000 in debt service, nearly $900,000 for insurance and about $180,000 in pension costs.
Mayor Robert Mezzo said there aren’t many options in the budget to make significant cuts.
“Our budget is crafted in great detail and deliberation in a process that takes almost four months. While there is always opportunity to adjust various line items at different times of the year when more information becomes available, there are few, feasible options to make substantial cuts. As always, we will respect the results of the process and are prepared to revise the budget accordingly after the referendum,” Mezzo said.
Officials have scheduled three meetings to review and discuss the proposed budgets if they fail. A budget presentation will be held at 6:30 p.m., July 9, at Town Hall. A hearing would be held at 6:30 p.m. July 13 at City Hill Middle School. And the second adoption of the budget will be held at 6:30 p.m. on July 20 at Town Hall.
The budgets failed at two referendums last year. No petitions were started to force a third referendum. Only three referendums can be forced. If a budget fails three times at a referendum, the subsequent approved budget is adopted.