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[UPDATED] Newtown Budget Fails

Twenty-eight percent of registered voters turnout for the referendum.

The voters have spoken. Newtown's proposed budget of $107.4 million has been turned down.

The Registrars of Voters office reports the following referendum results:

  • 1,962 - Yes
  • 2,560 - No

That is a turnout of 28% of total eligible voters. The Legislative Council will now have to go back to the drawing board.

What do you think needs to change for the budget to pass?

Steady Stream of Voters at Poll

Driving into Newtown Middle School one will see a man standing at the entrance with a sandwichboard sign that reads: "Enrollment - Down! Economy - Down! Taxes Up? Vote No!"

That man is Paul Ludanyi, 68, a 25-year resident of Newtown. "And it seems like every year it just keeps going up," Ludanyi says of the budget and his taxes, which last year cost him about $7,600.

Just up the street, at the heavily trafficked intersection of Queen Street and Church Hill Road, stand two women and one man, with signs that read: "Your Vote Counts. Vote Yes."

The trio is Kathey Fetchick, a Legislative Council member, and Board of Education members John Vouros and Laura Roche. "We worked hard on this budget. We want to see it pass ... to work toward the goals of the district," said Roche, who is vice chairman of the board.

And so goes the story as a steady stream of Newtown voters cast their ballot in a referendum that will decide the fate of a proposed $107.4 million budget.

"I think it's going to fail," says Republican Registrar of Voters Karin Aurelia during a phone interview at 1:15 p.m.

Ludanyi certainly hopes so. Alluding to his sign that also includes the phrase, "The Economy is Down," he shares how he was unemployed 10 months of last year and six the year before that. "Enough is enough," he says. "I am a senior citizen and would like to retire and stay in town with an affordable tax rate."

From what Aurelia's Democrat counterpart, LeReine Frampton, heard from someone out at the polls, there's been a lot of "No" votes. While Assistant Poll Moderator Will Frampton didn't have the breakdown of votes, he reported at about 12:30 p.m. that more than 1,500 votes had been cast -- that's of the 15,983 registered voters in Newtown.

Ludanyi, who had been at the middle school since before 7 a.m., says he's seen a steady stream of voters; many of them appeared to be receptive to his message, he notes.

If the budget fails by simple majority a new vote would be held about two weeks from now, on a Tuesday -- most likely May 8, Aurelia says.

There is support for the budget, though. One woman who was carrying a toddler in her arms had voted yes, because she wants all-day kindergarten.

Aurelia expects results to begin rolling in around 9 p.m., an hour after polls close. Patch will bring you updates as they are available.

On the Republican Primary front, Aurelia says she is expecting turnout to be "dismal," in large part due to the fact that it falls on the same day as the referendum -- something that requires a number of voters to cast ballots at two locations -- not to mention Romney pretty much has the party nomination in the bag.

That inconvenience of having to vote in two places was the main painpoint of Republican voters, Frampton says.

The Original Report Follows:

Newtown Republican Registrar of Voters Karin Aurelia has a busy day ahead of her. She plans on being in the office by 5:15 a.m. and other than a quick trip to to vote, will likely not be home till after 10 p.m.

It's usually only a couple times a year that Aurelia and her Democrat counterparts have such a long day, and today's budget referendum in Newtown is one of them. Polls open at 6 a.m. and residents will be able to cast a vote for or against the town budget up until 8 p.m. The question on the ballot:

SHALL THE SUM OF $107,806,523 BE APPROPRIATED AS THE ANNUAL TOWN BUDGET FOR THE 2012-2013 FISCAL YEAR?

The proposed budget of $107.4 million carries with it an estimated mill rate of 24.94.

For more background on the budget, including coverage from Board of Education and Town Council hearings, as well as insight into departmental spending, check out the Newtown Budget 2012 Topic Page we created.

The middle school is located at 11 Queen Street, for all voting districts. Absentee ballots will also be counted there beginning at 6 p.m., according to a Legal Notice.

The weather forecast for today is partly cloudy with temperatures reaching into the mid-50s.

Republican Primary is Today, Too

While Rick Santorum is out and Mitt Romney is the front-runner, Republican voters will have their choice today between four candidates in the Presidential Primary:

  • Mitt Romney
  • Newt Gingrich
  • Ron Paul
  • Rick Santorum

Wondering where to vote for today's primary? You can find out by typing your street name in at this website.

Newtown Patch will be updating this article throughout the day with coverage from the polls.

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Wayne Addessi May 22, 2012 at 11:14 PM
This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done Author: Unknown
Wayne Addessi May 22, 2012 at 11:20 PM
So....Will you be an Anybody? Or will you be Everybody and get the same results Everybody has always gotten? The reason it is so easy to complain rather than solve problems!! There is no responsibility in complaining.
Thomas Crafts May 23, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Their rankings count things like "minority performance within peer group" and "spending per pupil", so who cares about this list? It a bunch of PC BS! We are # 15 in the state on raw SAT score, but 149 on spending per pupil. What does that tell you about spending vs. performance??
Truthteller May 23, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Wayne, your post above is excellent re: more kind people donating. Many have donated their time to improve our town, and, when their honesty, integrity and wisdom did not fall in line with the old boys' club, they were summarily dismissed. The ability to enjoy walking trails at FFH is in serious jeopardy with the direction Newtown's powers that be is taking. They talk about leases that are under review, and, the taxpayers are not committed to, BUT--while the budget fiasco continues, and, it is a fiasco, the town's attorney, who is also the same attorney representing the prospective leasee, has a sweetheart deal for his client, but a bitter pill for us, the taxpayers. Tax abatements to encourage a commercial tax base is one thing. Free rent, sliding scale tax abatements at the expense of the taxpayer, not so nice. Does FFH NEED some offices and retail? Is that helping us? There are countless vacant commercial properties available in town, empty shops, etc. The ridiculous idea that FFH needs offices is just that, ridiculous. Nor does it need housing. Would've been nice to see appropriate local businesses "donate" their services to demolish the existing structures.
Truthteller May 23, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Wayne, Pat Llodra refuses to divulge just how much the office of the Economic Development Director contributes to the grand list. I would suggest successful business"people", like yourself, could accomplish much more as volunteers, rather than paying the salary and benefits for a position, who's contributions are nothing but mysterious.
Mike Kelley May 23, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Very insightful Wayne and very true in many cases. Thanks for reminding us all.
Wayne Addessi May 23, 2012 at 01:51 AM
Truthteller, My experience is in Ridgefield and I carefully watch other towns such as Wilton and New Canaan. I understand your points with FFH and respect it. All I can ask is that you review what has NOT happened in Newtown for a moment. The tax burden we're all experiencing is the cost of FFH which is huge! Huge! With no revenue from this huge investment. I did read an article that there seems to some real interest in a new commercial building being planned for FFH. newtown needs to look carefully at the plan and be sure the town will benefit in the not so distant future. From what I read it looks like a reasonable plan. This newly proposed building needs to comply with some form of an architectural review boards strategy though. This should definitively fit with the character of FFH . Otherwise we've lost before we begin. EDC is key to any town.
Wayne Addessi May 23, 2012 at 01:52 AM
Look at what has transpired in Ridgefield. Btw, it took many, many years for Ridgefield (R) to grow into what it is today. I think the reason for a good commercial base in R is that we do enjoy the benefits of a downtown ( DT). The DT is a draw for commercial businesses. Btw, many businesses in Ridgefield are privately owned or family run such as mine. R is far from perfect if you were to ask some residents, however, the base of a successful downtown I believe, starts with its core. It's downtown. Newtown has no downtown, no center. Would you believe Ridgefield's downtown includes condominiums? Now, even affordable housing is being planned with nearly 30 new units coming if all goes according to what I know.
Wayne Addessi May 23, 2012 at 01:53 AM
I do believe the reason for failure of businesses here in Newtown, is that there isn't enough of a draw for folks to shop, stroll and dine. Newtown Retail attraction is too much of a sprawling base, with no core. One needs to drive everywhere for most of our needs, Newspaper, groceries, library, haircut, etc. On top of this, we have no contiguous sidewalk path to safely walk or run or even shop from one "convenient" place to another.
Wayne Addessi May 23, 2012 at 02:01 AM
FFH could be a "golden egg" commercially and with parks and rec, ball fields and more to satisfy many residents, but perhaps among great commercial developers and reputable "town partners" it may be of little interest now. There has been much to much talk and no action. Coupled with a struggling economy cuts even deeper into a path of possible failure. Taxpayers should not be leading this project and this is my belief why nothing significant has happened there in a definitive manner. On the other hand, when I've seen municipalities get into the real estate business with no real partners or planned partners involvement, than all bets are off and possible failure becomes very real or it becomes a money losing proposition. FFH may be just that. When a town succeeds it should first realize the town should be the carrier of the project for a decided period of time with possible real partners that have a shared vision. Newtown, like any town needs an EDC Commisison. I don't know if there should be a paid position or not, but look to other towns for that answer and you may find it.
Tullius May 23, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Wayne, I respect your enthusiasm and share your hopes, but I must point out an obvious difference between Ridgefield’s downtown and FFH... that is Ridgefield was developed by private interest on private land, while at FFH the taxpayer is expected to foot the bill for all the infrastructure while the developers get a sweetheart deal on rent. And the taxpayers commitment is a huge bill that may never be repaid. Wayne; Are you a fiscal conservative or a community dreamer? I hope you are a fiscal conservative, if so you'd ask for a cost benefit value analysis for every dollar spent at FFH, but to date there has been no ROI analysis and the members of the community don’t get to vote on anything at FFH so why would anyone support anything there under those circumstances?
Wayne Addessi May 23, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Tullius, You may be mistaken by saying the taxpayer is to "foot the bill for all the infrastructure " there. There is a $5m project being discussed for FFH, from what I read online recently. I want to learn more about this but I do hope the town looks at this and reviews carefully. In my review, I for one feel that the structure should offer charm, character and compliment the historical elements of some buildings at FFH. This building may not not capture some of these elements.Reminds me of a building in Danbury on Kenosia Ave that houses the AAA offices. It's nearly impossible to get a cost analysis benefit for many reasons. The town has spent a great deal of money. The town has simply invested to protect and control what goes on here. The control has unfortunately caused the town to freeze and do nothing up til recently. Let's hope it's time for change now. The goal should have been to plan, manage and sell off portions with "partners to the town" in development. Here is a link to the article if you are interested. http://newtownbee.com/News/2012-03-22__13-28-16/FHA+Planning+Panel+Gets+Glimpse+Of+Claris+Commercial+Proposal
James May 23, 2012 at 11:28 AM
blah blah blah, the issue is cutting the town budget. The chief of Police, head of the LC and the super of schools don't live in town, then get rid of them. What do they care if they don't even live here. A disgrace, almost as much as Capeci stating in the bee we cut nothing on the town side or lorda saying we are suffering already.... Hey get a freakin clue Pat, you haven't nearly suffered until you are forced to go on a furlough program or a 10% paycut for 3 straight years. Too bad, I will vote NO NO NO until you do feel the pain. What a joke this town Gov. has become.
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com May 23, 2012 at 11:55 AM
Thomas Crafts wrote Their rankings count things like "minority performance within peer group" and "spending per pupil", so who cares about this list? It a bunch of PC BS! We are # 15 in the state on raw SAT score, but 149 on spending per pupil. What does that tell you about spending vs. performance?? It says to me that the School administration, teachers and prior boards of education have done one heck of a job.
Teacher May 23, 2012 at 12:28 PM
@ Thomas Crafts: It tells me that we're already getting blood from a stone. How much more can you expect teachers to do with so little? If you are getting good performance from us, why are we not being rewarded? And I don't mean with salaries...I mean with working copy machines. People on these message boards can't have it both ways. First, it's that we have so many terrible teachers we have to get rid of tenure so we can fire them all. Then it's that we have so many amazing teachers that we're doing a great job with very little money. Which is it?
A. G. P. May 23, 2012 at 01:34 PM
I haven't checked the accuracy myself, but I read somewhere that the flight tax we are considering is higher than it's (in)famous predecessor: the one used to keep Jewish people from leaving Germany in the 30s. ...needs citation ;) Reagan said open the gates and you will see which country is best. It's a bad sign that we're trying to close the gates.
A. G. P. May 23, 2012 at 02:08 PM
I agree that people do work hard, and that a certain % of failures come from the natural spectrum of human ability. But in an area like Ff C, I expect that a high % of school successes come from successful families. Conversely, many urban areas have to pay for things like ESL, and struggle to meet literacy standards. All that to say if a kid starts at a better place, of course it's easier to get them far. Newtown has only a few kids trying to catch up, places lik R, Dn, Gr... have (nearly) zero.
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com May 23, 2012 at 02:31 PM
There is no doubt that wealthier towns do better, but we 35 in wealth and 15 in raw SAT scores according to Mr Craft. Pretty good results for the per pupil expenditure we pay. I wonder what the per resident cost is of the municipal budget and how we rank. I have never seen that data from the town side. Can anyone help. How about Bob Tait?
A. G. P. May 23, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Teacher, on one hand I know that every work place has shortages, on the other, they also have waste. I knew a teacher who was nearly sick when (having noticed stickers left everywhere by interior decorators) found out how much was being spent on decor for the high school addition. I also know a teacher/resident who (after decades) has started voting no. The 3rd teacher I know (& last) was the one who pointed out that every cut was an educator and every addition was an administrator. There has to be a better way!
Wayne Addessi May 23, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Tony, Here is some facts to back up your statement. Top 10 rated districts in Ct are all in affluent areas which means higher value properties. Just some FYI data to share. I am not making any statement with this information. http://www.schooldigger.com/go/CT/districtrank.aspx
Paul Alexander May 23, 2012 at 05:35 PM
AMT hit you yet Sully? When it does you'll change your tune.
Wayne Addessi May 23, 2012 at 07:09 PM
All you may need to do is go online and find more stats, however, we can move the needle in many directions on this subject. You may want to look at what it takes to put your child in a private school and the stats for those expenses compared to public. In Ct Newtown does rate very high with spending per student. Look here for some stats: http://www.conncan.org/learn/reportcards/results?school=Elementary&category=field_reportcard_goal_value&submit=District
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com May 23, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Wayne I think the report you had rates performance, not pupil expenditure. We are in the bottom of the ranking in the financial support area.
Paul Alexander May 23, 2012 at 07:24 PM
If you haven’t read between the lines of the last two referendums, the entire debate has been turned around to where it properly belongs. The "Old" debate was: What does the town and schools need? The "New" debate is: What are the taxpayers willing to GIVE? Exploring budget stats and school performance stats for other municipalities to justify what should be spent in Newtown is pointless.
Wayne Addessi May 23, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Bruce, Performance comes from spending. I think we call this results.
Paul Alexander May 23, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Wayne said... "Performance comes from spending." Only when referring to the public sector would ANYONE make such a (I'll leave out several suitable adjectives) comment.
Paul Alexander May 23, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Oh...and "Brilliant" wasn't one of them.
Wayne Addessi May 23, 2012 at 08:28 PM
One does evil enough when one does nothing good. ~German Proverb
Linda Pickering June 07, 2012 at 08:43 PM
I can' believe we've been duped again. No spelt NO means no!!!!!!! Since there is sooo much confusion as to what people are voting for: NO ( I want you to raise the budget) No ( I want you to lower the budget) Let's make the statement on the ballot perfectly clear as to what a no or yes vote means. What is the point of voting when the interpretation of the statement changes???
Linda Pickering June 07, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Why are you deleting my Comment?

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