The Newtown Legislative Council approved the Board of Finance’s recommended 2012-13 municipal budget Tuesday, sending it for a ratification vote by the town voters on April 24.
The approved $107,406,523 budget is 1.75% higher than the approved budget for the current year, and will require a .57 mill increase in the tax rate if the town voters support it.
First Selectman Patricia Llodra said the budget referendum would take place on the same day as the , and she predicted confusion throughout town because many Republicans would have to go to different polling places to cast the two votes.
If approved, the tax rate would jump from 24.37 to 24.94 mills, an increase of 2.34% in taxes. At the new tax rate, taxpayers would pay $2,494 for every $100,000 of assessed value on their homes, or $24.94 for every $1,000 of assessed value on their cars.
Some members of the Legislative Council attempted to reduce the tax increase by amending the mill rate by one-tenth of a mill at the expense of the school budget, but their amendment failed by a 9-3 vote.
The Board of Finance’s recommended budget subsequently passed by a 7-5 vote.
"I think this budget is reasonable and it should go forward to the voters," said Council Chairman Jeffrey A. Capeci, R-3.
Councilman Robert Merola, R-1, introduced the budget cutting amendment. He said senior citizens are the fastest growing part of the town’s population and they want school spending brought under control.
He and several other councilmen noted that many taxpayers are grumbling that the school budget keeps going up even though school enrollment is declining.
Board of Finance Chairman John Kortze said town officials should discuss that with the Board of Education to determine the cause. But he recommended they hold that discussion later, not during budget deliberations, so there was enough time to spend on it.
The Board of Finance set the school budget at $69,355,794, reducing it by $700,000 from the Board of Education’s request of $70,055,794.
The school budget includes $480,000 for 8.5 new kindergarten teacher positions so the school district could start all-day kindergarten.
Several councilmen said the all-day kindergarten is a popular idea among town residents. "That alone should be a reason to say thumbs up or thumbs down," said Capeci.
Board of Education Chairman Debbie Leidlein said she could not say whether all-day kindergarten would be in jeopardy if the voters turn down the budget on April 24. It would depend on what school budget was finally approved, she said.