With 35.66 percent voting, taxpayers approved the $50.43 million municipal budget for 2011-12 at a town wide referendum on Tuesday by a vote of 1,759 in favor to 1,513 against.
It was the third time voters were asked to consider an expenditure and revenue package for the coming fiscal year. Voters rejected the first two proposals, which would have raised taxes 3.9 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively, on May 3 and May 17.
Tuesday, a small group of town officials, including those on the Town Council and school board, and representatives from a group that advocates for the school system, were jubilant when Democratic Registrar of Voters Michael Wyman announced the results in the Hicks Memorial Municipal Center gymnasium.
“I’m thankful that even on the third attempt we still have a budget that is manageable on the town side,” Town Council Chairman Frederick Daniels said Tuesday night.
“I don’t envy the decisions that the Board of Education needs to make,” Daniels said referring to the board’s pending discussions about how to reduce its original $36.02 million to meet the newly approved $34.66 million education budget.
Taxpayers were split on their approval between the two districts with 906 supporting the plan and 633 rejecting it in District 1 when compared with the 853 who supported it and 880 who rejected it in District 2.
The approved budget represents a $1.12 million, or 2.25 percent, spending increase when compared to the current year. It requires a tax rate of 29.73 mills, or a 1.99 percent increase in taxes. The Town Council will meet tonight at 7:30 in the council chambers at Hicks Memorial to officially set the tax rate.
Broken down, the new budget is as follows:
- General Government, $10,766,199 (a 1.36 percent increase)
- Board of Education, $34,662,357 (a 2.53 percent increase)
- Debt Service, $4,751,796 (a 2.79 percent increase)
- Capital, $247,310 (a 7.27 percent decrease)
For school board member Steve Clark, the budget approval was bittersweet.
“I’m glad we finally have a budget to work with,” Clark said before leaving the polling place Tuesday night, adding that now the board must decide how to amend it original proposal.
Clark said that the board will ask Superintendent of Schools William Guzman to prioritize the budget items and present ways to reduce it’s original plan to adhere to the approved spending limits. This will be done at the board’s two meetings scheduled for June.
, Guzman said he anticipates having to cut further from proposed increases, which include $172,564 in athletic programs and personnel and $143,274 in programs, facilities and support services.
With the municipal budget approved, Daniels said he remains hopeful that the state budget will keep promised aid to towns and cities intact. that he has a plan to fill a $400 million budget gap over the next two years by a combination of using state surplus money and making additional cuts to the budget.
His plan is contingent upon the agreeing to contract revisions that are projected to save the state $1.6 billion over the two-year budget.