First Selectman Patricia Llodra on Thursday appealed to Newtown voters who didn’t vote in this week’s referendum to turn out for the next try and help pass the town budget.
"I don’t believe those people don’t care," Llodra said when she and Board of Education Chairman Debbie Leidlein met with reporters at Town Hall. "I believe they do care."
Llodra announced the Board of Selectmen would meet Friday morning to consider setting July 12, a Thursday, as the date for the fifth town budget referendum this year.
The , with a 25.9 percent voter turnout.
Llodra said no one she has talked to can remember a year when the town budget was voted down four times.
Nor did she know of any other town in Connecticut in a similar circumstance. Bethel and Monroe, neighboring towns that have seen difficulties getting budgets approved by the voters, both passed budgets this year without controversy.
Llodra also noted that the Legislative Council intends to appoint a charter revision commission this year to put a single question on the ballot in November asking voters to change the way the town budget is approved to prevent this from happening again.
The Council on Wednesday passed a new budget that chops $100,000 out of the contingency account and $100,000 out of the allocation to build up the fund balance.
Both the contingency account and the fund balance are cash reserves maintained in case of emergencies. Llodra said the Council made the cuts with "great reluctance," because they might have a negative effect on Newtown’s AA1 bond rating, but the alternative was to cut services.
If approved, the new budget would raise the mill rate from 24.37 to 24.54, an effective tax increase of 0.69 percent. Llodra said for the average taxpayer paying $8,000 a year, that would mean a $55 increase.
Leidlein said the Board of Education has also made cuts in its budget request totaling $129,134, by replacing the assistant principal at with a lead teacher, eliminating the transportation coordinator position, and finding savings in its unemployment and worker’s compensation costs.
She doubted that additional savings could be found in the school budget, and that the school board would have to wait until after a budget is approved before deciding if all-day kindergarten, the big initiative planned for the 2012-13 school year, is still possible.
Llodra said holding a referendum on Thursday, July 12, instead of the following Tuesday, the customary day of the week for voting, would allow town officials to mail accurate tax bills to taxpayers next month, but only if the budget passes.
She said she doubted the Legislative Council’s new budget proposal would appeal to either those voters who insist on a zero-percent tax increase, or those who oppose school budget cuts, so the Council hopes to reach those voters on July 12 who are willing to compromise and might not have voted in the other referendums.
"We are obligated to find that spending plan that is acceptable to a majority of voters in Newtown," Llodra said. "We just need to keep working at it until we get it right."