Turnout falls short at borough referendum

0
6

Ballot Clerk John Kochis, left, hands Kathleen Cavoto a ballot during Naugatuck’s referendum on the 2013-14 municipal and school budgets Tuesday. Both budgets were adopted after the referendum failed to get the required 15 percent voter turnout. –LUKE MARSHALL
Ballot Clerk John Kochis, left, hands Kathleen Cavoto a ballot during Naugatuck’s referendum on the 2013-14 municipal and school budgets Tuesday. Both budgets were adopted after the referendum failed to get the required 15 percent voter turnout. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — The vast majority of voters who cast their ballot in Tuesday’s referendum did so against Naugatuck’s municipal and school budgets. However, the turnout wasn’t high enough to validate the results.

The turnout fell 236 voters short of reaching the 15 percent benchmark, or 2,624 voters, necessary for the referendum to count. According to unofficial numbers, 2,388 voters, or nearly 14 percent, cast their ballot at the Naugatuck Train Station.

The total 2013-14 budget is $110.9 million, an increase of $3.3 million or 3.08 percent over last fiscal year’s budget. The general government budget is $51.5 million, an increase of $1.9 million or 3.87 percent. The Board of Education budget is $59.4 million, an increase of $1.39 million or 2.4 percent.

Unofficial numbers show both budgets were rejected soundly by those who came out to vote.

On the municipal budget, 168 people voted yes, 2,157 people voted no the budget is too high, while 17 people voted no the budget is too low.

On the school budget, 272 people voted yes, 2,028 people voted no the budget is too high and 27 people voted no it is too low.

The budgets were forced to the referendum through a petition effort by the group Naugatuck Taxpayers in Revolt.

“I’m disappointed, but we did have a better effort than last time,” said Alec Wargo, chairman of Naugatuck Taxpayers in Revolt.

The group forced a referendum on the budgets two years ago. At that referendum, only 6.9 percent of registered voters turned out to vote.

“Maybe if we put more time into it, it may have made it,” Wargo said of Tuesday’s referendum. “But it came very close.”

Wargo said he’d like to see the required turnout lowered, but at this time the group has to deal with the requirement as it stands. He added it would help to get a higher turnout if the referendum wasn’t held at a time when a lot of people are on vacation.

The mill rate for 2013-14 is 44.8 mills, which is an increase of more than 11 mills. This means a tax rate of $44.80 for every $1,000 of assessed value.

The significant increase in the mill rate is due to the last year’s property revaluation. According to borough officials, the budget would have increased the mill rate by less than 1 mill if the revaluation didn’t occur.

After the revaluation, real estate values in the borough dropped 26 percent overall. Generally, homes that lost more than 25 percent of their value will see lower taxes, while homes with values that depreciated less than 25 percent will see higher taxes.

The mill rate increase will be felt especially on motor vehicle taxes and commercial properties.

Tax bills have already been sent out for the first half of real estate taxes, with the exception of residents who have elderly tax exemptions. Now that the budget is adopted, the tax department will send out bills for the remaining amount that taxpayers owe, likely by Oct. 1. They would be due Jan. 1. Motor vehicle tax bills will be sent now as well.