Referendum on borough budget set for July 19

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The Board of Mayor and Burgesses met Wednesday night and approved July 19 as the date to hold a referendum on the borough budget. LARAINE WESCHLER
NAUGATUCK — In a few weeks, the voters will decide the fate of Naugatuck’s budget.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses set July 19 as the day the borough budget will head to referendum during a special meeting June 22. The referendum will be held at Naugatuck Train Station/Historical Society on Water Street from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

By Town Charter, the referendum had to be held 22 to 28 days after the board met, an inconvenience that left some burgesses grumbling.

Burgess Pat Scully asked the board to tentatively schedule a meeting for the Thursday following the Tuesday referendum so it could settle the budget as soon as possible.

“The quicker, the better,” said Burgess Ron San Angelo, who hoped the budget wouldn’t be drawn out all summer.

The school and town budgets were forced to referendum through a petition distributed by the Naugatuck Taxpayers in Revolt. Eight percent of registered voters, or 1,395 people, had to sign the petition to force a referendum. At least 1,405 signed the petition for the school board budget, and 1,403 signed the town budget petition, Borough Clerk Nancy DiMeo said.

Borough voters will have the option of voting for the $48.5 million municipal budget and a $57 million school budget separately. If they vote against either budget, they can indicate whether they think it was too high or too low.

If the budget fails, the Joint Boards of Mayor and Burgesses and Board of Finance will have to hold another public hearing before adopting a revised budget. If voters are still not satisfied, they can petition for up to two more referendums.

Even though the referendum is pending, taxes are still due July 1 for the first half of real estate taxes, based on last year’s mill rate.

The board briefly discussed adding more than one location for the referendum in response to complaints following the last referendum in 2008, but decided to keep it to one location to save on costs.

Less locations means less money for machines, staffing, overtime, and other costs associated with multiple locations. A full referendum with all polling places open costs the town about $15,000, but having only one location open saves about half of that, officials said.

Anyone who can’t make it to the polls can obtain an absentee ballot by calling Borough Clerk Nancy DiMeo at (203) 720-7009 or stopping by the Mayor’s Office to pick up an application and ballot. Ballots will be available July 1 to July 18.

In light of the upcoming referendum, Mayor Robert Mezzo has instructed department heads to hold off on hiring anyone until the budget is resolved.

About five positions are currently open and several others are likely to open in the next few months, Mezzo said.

The borough will make an exception for four part-time animal control employees on the verge of being hired to replace vacancies left by recent upheaval at the animal control facility. The police department is currently dealing with the day-to-day operations of the facility, and the new hires are badly needed, Mezzo said.

The borough will also move forward with hiring part-time summer help for the Park and Recreation Department’s summer programs, Mezzo said.

If the budget fails and the joint boards decide to eliminate positions, they will not necessarily be the positions held open now, Mezzo added.