Amid lower turnout than last year, the budget referendum was defeated by a 266 vote margin Tuesday.
That means the $107 million budget request heads back to the Legislative Council for further review before being sent to a second referendum.
Nearly all town officials have said some cuts will have to be made to the request before sending it to a second referendum.
The referendum was defeated by a 53-percent of the majority, or 1,850 voters, compared to the 1,584 who had wanted the budget to pass.
“I’m just pleased that the voters of Newtown reinforced what I had advocated,” said council member Richard Woycik, who originally proposed cutting $1 million from the budget request prior to the referendum but could not muster enough council votes for its passage.
Only two fellow council members agreed to support his proposal, although that effort now would appear to have gained momentum following the referendum defeat.
“A ‘no’ means it’s too high,” Council member Ben Spragg said of the budget request.
, said he now would support Woycik and fellow dissenting council members.
“I think a cut of a million is in the realm of possibility,” Spragg said. “I’m going to go along with them.”
At the same time, other town officials said a $1 million budget cut would be too much and lead to reduced services across town.
“It’s too deep,” First Selectman Pat Llodra said of a $1 million budget cut. “We were very honest in our budget development…To back that number off by a million, there will be pain."
Llodra said that she and Finance Director Bob Tait had already begun talking about what cuts they might make should the referendum be defeated and the council decided to make cuts.
Llodra said she was committed to preserving the town’s stance when it comes to not withdrawing money from fund balance and other fiscal policies.
The council has scheduled a meeting Wednesday to discuss what to do next.
Board of Education chairman Bill Hart said he and Llodra remained committed to work together to come up with budget cuts should the council decide that.
“The best way is to work together,” he said. “It’s not a town-versus-school thing.”
While last year featured a debate about whether a referendum defeat should automatically translate to a budget cut, that debate rarely surfaced this year. Most education supporters said they backed the budget request passed by the council.
In fact, the lack of contention might have contributed to the defeat, Hart said.
“Unfortunately, things have been so quiet that people haven’t been engaged,” he said.
In total, 3,503 voters cast a "yes" or "no" ballot, which was less than the .