Group submits petitions to force budget vote

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Taxpayers in Revolt Chairman Alec Wargo submitted petitions to force a referendum on Naugatuck’s 2013-14 budget last week. The group collected nearly 2,000 signatures on each petition, one for the municipal budget and one for the school budget. The signatures are currently being verified. –RA ARCHIVE
Taxpayers in Revolt Chairman Alec Wargo submitted petitions to force a referendum on Naugatuck’s 2013-14 budget last week. The group collected nearly 2,000 signatures on each petition, one for the municipal budget and one for the school budget. The signatures are currently being verified. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — Although borough officials have accepted the 2013-14 budget, the voters may have the final say.

Alec Wargo, chairman of Taxpayers in Revolt, submitted two petitions last week, one for the school budget on one for the municipal budget, in the hopes of forcing a referendum on the budget. Each petition had nearly 2,000 signatures, Wargo said.

The two petitions are to force a referendum vote on the municipal budget and the Board of Education’s operating budget.

The borough adopted a $110.9 million budget, which is an increase of $3.3 million, or 3.08 percent over the current year’s budget. The school budget is $59.4 million of the overall budget, an increase of $1.39 million or 2.4 percent over the current budget.

The mill rate was set at 44.8 mills, which is an increase of 11.25 mills over the current mill rate of 33.65. This means a tax rate of $44.80 for every $1,000 of assessed value.

The significant increase in the mill rate was due to revaluation, which resulted in lower property vales. The increase would have been .93 mills had the revaluation not occurred, according to officials.

Wargo said he started the petitions because he believes the borough’s spending is out of control.

“The spending is not in tune with the citizens’ positions,” Wargo said. “The state, and the country for that matter, is in the midst of horrible economic recession. It’s a matter of people keeping their house and having a job rather than getting raises. I think government employees should be in the same position.”

Town Clerk Nancy DiMeo said the next step is to certify the signatures on the petition.

“What happens now is the very arduous process of going through every signature and verifying they are registered Naugatuck voters,” DiMeo said.

DiMeo has to verify the petitions contain at least 1,398 signatures from registered voters, which is 8 percent of the total number of registered voters in Naugatuck, for them to be valid.

If the petitions do contain enough certified signatures a referendum date will be set.

“Once I certify the petition, within five days the Board of Mayor and Burgesses has to meet to set the date of the referendum,” DiMeo said. “That referendum cannot be held earlier than 22 days nor later than 28 days from date of the meeting.”

If a referendum is forced at least 15 percent of registered voters, which is approximately 2,620 voters, must turn out to vote for it count. If less than that amount turns out the referendum is considered to have failed and the budget is adopted, DiMeo said.

During the adoption of the 2011-12 budget, Taxpayers in Revolt gathered enough signatures to force a referendum vote. Although the majority of voters who came out for the referendum rejected the budget, not enough people turned out so it failed.

If enough voters turn out and reject the budget the Joint Boards of Mayor and Burgesses and Finance have 14 days to approve a new budget.

“They will have a meeting to make cuts, a public hearing, and the final adoption all within 14 days of the referendum,” DiMeo said.

Wargo said one of the reasons he collected signatures is because he feels the borough is trying to get what it wants, not necessarily what it needs.

“It comes to the issue of wants and needs. We’re expected to give them everything they want, even though we can’t afford it,” Wargo said.

Wargo was also concerned the school budget documents were not readily available for citizens at the public hearing in May.  

DiMeo did not have an exact date for when the signatures would be finished being verified, though she felt it would be sometime during the second week of June.

If a referendum is forced it would most likely be set for the beginning of July, DiMeo said.