NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck’s municipal and school budgets are likely headed to a referendum for the second year in a row.
Matthew Katra, a former Board of Finance member who helped organize the petition effort, turned in petitions May 27 to Town Hall to force the budgets to a public vote.
“I think the voters should have the right every year to vote on the budget and have their say in the budget process,” Katra said. “Unfortunately we don’t have an automatic referendum process. The only way to have a say is to force a referendum with the petition.”
Borough Clerk Nancy DiMeo said approximately 1,300, or 8 percent, signatures from registered Naugatuck voters are needed to force the referendums.
Katra said about 1,900 people signed the petitions.
DiMeo has begun the process of verifying signatures. It’s unclear when this process will be finished.
The proposed budget is $115.8 million. The spending plan is an increase of $2.8 million, or 2.5 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 proposed municipal budget is $53.8 million, an increase of $1.7 million, or 3.3 percent, over the current 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. The median valued house in Naugatuck, which is assessed at $110,740, would see a $170 jump in real estate taxes, from $4,922 currently to $5,092 in fiscal year 2015-16, which begins July 1.
Once enough signatures are certified, the Board of Mayor and Burgesses has five days to meet and set a date for the referendum. The referendum date must be set no earlier than 22 days and no later than 28 days from the date of the meeting, per the charter.
DiMeo said the referendum could take place in the beginning of July, if the process goes quickly.
The budgets failed at two referendums last year after being forced to a vote.
As the borough prepares for a likely referendum, Board of Finance Chairwoman Diane Scinto said she would like to see more people familiarize themselves with the budget.
“I just wish people would look at what the budget has and what the increases are,” Scinto said.
Scinto said many of the increases were contractual and the borough could not make adjustments to them.
The municipal budget includes fixed increases of $400,000 in debt service, nearly $900,000 for insurance and about $180,000 in pension costs. The school board’s insurance cost is going up $1.13 million, which is slightly higher than the overall school budget increase.
“We’ve looked at every line in every department every Monday evening,” Scinto said. “There are not a lot of options for us.”
At least 15 percent of registered voters need to vote in the referendum for the results to count, even if the budgets are voted down.
Katra said he hopes at least the minimum number of voters turn out for the referendum.
“After the referendum, if we could lower the mill rate that would be advantageous to the residents and the business owners in the borough. Having the fifth highest mill rate in the state is not going to attract new businesses to the borough,” Katra said.