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Referendum Defeat Likely to Lead to Cuts

Voters defeated the proposed $107 million budget during Tuesday's referendum.

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 .

Po Murray April 27, 2011 at 12:45 PM
Jayne, Thank you for asking for accountability from both the school and the municipal budgets. I do not expect to see "same services" in the schools or in the town hall after the cuts tonight.
David Kingsley April 27, 2011 at 12:49 PM
Do we really need more vice-principals?
Po Murray April 27, 2011 at 12:49 PM
The motivated NO voters have spoken so the unmotivated voters must accept the additional cuts this year AND if they don't make the effort to vote at the next referendum in a few weeks then they can expect even more cuts. I feel bad for the 1584 people who voted YES to preserve the services.
Jayne Long April 27, 2011 at 01:07 PM
Po, I can't really say that I am asking for accountability. Yes, we need that. I am asking if the town has looked at how they conduct their business and if there are some roles that can be combined and shared and if they can change processes to save time and money. Many times things are done the same way, because they have always been done that way.....but it takes a brave person to come in and actually do a study to see if by doing it different, it would actually achieve efficiencies and savings. I am not certain if they have done this on the town side. I know the school budget is scrutinized, but I am not so certain the town side receives the same scrutiny. I guess I am curious as my experience this week at FFH has not been a positive one and when I mention this to other people in town, there is a collective groan.
GRC April 27, 2011 at 01:45 PM
Jayne, I was actually at the FFH town hall yesterday as well to pick up an building application. Wow - must be 20 pages thick! What an overly complicated disaster - thank god the staff at the town hall were at least pleasant and helpful. What department did you go to that didn't have any staff? I think your on to something as far as job sharing - it certainly could be a WAY more efficient system.
Arthur Hill April 27, 2011 at 01:56 PM
The discourse coming from our town officials is starting to sound a lot like the story "The Boy who cried Wolf". Last year we were warned by the BOE that if $1 million was not restored to the school budget, we would lose 40 teachers. I believe that despite the cut, no teacher jobs were lost. This year we get a dire warning almost before the votes are finished being counted that there will be "pain" because of the referendum. I applaud the concerned citizens who have made constructive suggestions in this forum on ways to make Newtown run more efficiently. Other communities in our area are doing the same thing. There is no reason why Newtown can't follow suit. A little "outside the box" thinking by Newtown officials would be a refreshing change. After all, that is what leadership is all about.
Sam Mihailoff April 27, 2011 at 02:01 PM
OK, Arthur... Now you have gone to far with your misinformation!!!!!!!!!!!!! It's...... "The Boy Who Cried Wolf.".... Peter is totally innocent, leave him alone. a little levity folks. Now, don't go and contact Hoa and accuse me of something like denying Arthur his rights to opinion...IT'S A JOKE...two different little "stories"....haha :-)
Karen C. Pierce April 27, 2011 at 02:09 PM
Agree,Tom. And the cuts need to be shared, as Bill said...1/3 and 2/3
Po Murray April 27, 2011 at 02:10 PM
Longtimeresident, We have had as many as 3631 YES voters and 2624 NO voters in the past so you have a valid point. I definitely agree that more efficiencies could be found however for the last two years, they have found multimillion dollar efficiencies (teacher furlough days, energy/health care etc...) already without reducing too many services------------the BOF cut $1MM two years ago and $2.5MM from the education budget request last year. One has to acknowledge that efforts have been made already. It appears there are many who will not be satisfied until the mill rate is actually reduced. Since we were told that the budget was the "same services" budget, I am thinking that we will be presented with a budget with reduced services when the cuts are made tonight.
DAY April 27, 2011 at 02:12 PM
"It appears there are many who will not be satisfied until the mill rate is actually reduced." You say that as if it's a bad thing.
Douglas Brennan April 27, 2011 at 02:18 PM
Bruce that is probably part of the money to fix the roof on the Town Hall at FFHills. I would not call it the New Town Hall since it is OLD. I would not call it the well built Town Hall because the construction is terrible. I would however ask those that represented that the roof was fine, that the conractor that we choose was competent and that the money was well spent as to "what were they thinking?" Let's see. Did they know? Yes! Did they listen to those that did not have a clue that there is plenty of money? Yes! Did they try to hide costs inside the Town budget, the Sewer Budget etc. Yes! Will it be expensive to fix the Asbestoes roof now rather then during construction? Yes. Is the firm that was responsible for the death of 6 people in Middletown responsible for the poor quality of construction that was done? Yes. Should they be banned from bidding on projects in this Town as they have demonstrated a complete disregard for safety and the lives of their workers and contractors? Yes.
David Kingsley April 27, 2011 at 02:18 PM
I believe we are due for new real estate assessments next year. If these are realistic it will make the discussion on mill rate very interesting. Theoretically, town revenue should plummet.
Sam Mihailoff April 27, 2011 at 02:23 PM
skip the epistle...I've been here for 31 years. I follow, attend meetings and never have missed a vote. No, one does not have to acknowledge that efforts have been made. I'm not expecting free samples, but on one side of the table is the fisherman's platter and on the other, a razor thin slice if sushi...somewhere between gorging and starvation would be nice
Douglas Brennan April 27, 2011 at 02:25 PM
How Newtown deals with its current situation could be a model for America. We have the people, skills and New England Spirit to solve our problems. We could choose the path that will take us to a better place, a more efficient place, a place that prides itself on ingenuity and values. Or we can fall victum to the continued politicalization of government spending. I prefer the first. Lead with Ideas not rhetoric. Lead with passion not passivity, lead with compassion not disdain, lead with values, open honest communication not "slight of hand." Real leaders address real problems. They do not shy away from them. They confront them and they trust that with hope determination and good will they can take the community to a better place for all!
Hoa Nguyen April 27, 2011 at 02:25 PM
We've heard what you have had to say about the budget referendum. Now hear what some other voters had to say about the referendum. Keep in mind this video was made as voters emerged from the middle school and prior to the results being announced: http://patch.com/A-gWTG
Sam Mihailoff April 27, 2011 at 02:26 PM
the mill rate will be 167
DAY April 27, 2011 at 02:31 PM
Good video. Captures both sides.
Sam Mihailoff April 27, 2011 at 02:36 PM
WOW. If I could increase the font size I would. Give some thought to the next quotation made by T.J. Stankus in our French III class "ONLY THE BLIND CAN SEE THAT WHICH THE DEAF CANNOT HEAR"
Sam Mihailoff April 27, 2011 at 02:39 PM
Po, I hardly think from the voter tabulation that either side was motivated...a larger sampling than a Quinnipiac poll, yes. Services need not be abbreviated, modified, or eliminated...this is hog wash. As Doug Brennan has stated quite eloquently the delivery and management of these services need some tweaking with an axe. Enough of this Boo Hoo that services shall now be lost. If this is way the occupants in the Primrose Palace deal with the "NO" vote without seeking out and acting on a new paradigm, then it is time to turn them all out to pasture
jkgriswold April 27, 2011 at 06:54 PM
I would love to know the age range on voting statistics. I'm guessing that more people who voted NO don't have kids in the school system. I agree that there are probably places in the budget, town and school, that could be cut. Have they thought of having someone from outside this town come in and help with some suggestions? Someone else commented on how other towns are thinking "outside the box". That would be great! But what really gets me is that when they found extra money from the decrease in Insurance, what were the suggested places to put it? They were wondering about giving money to the Labor Day parade? REALLY? They won't even consider FULL day kindergarden? What town around here, or in the country, doesn't have full day kindergarden besides us?
Sam Mihailoff April 27, 2011 at 07:02 PM
Do not equate throwing more money at the schools to be "improved" services. I am sure a consultant would be a great idea...more money, less work except to read the "suggested changes" ...Thinking outside of the box would be a new and unoque idea, especially to those in the Primrose Palisades who are totally unable to punch their way out of a paper bag.
WaxyGordon April 27, 2011 at 08:11 PM
No we do not...and we should fire many of the ones we already have on the payroll!
Douglas Brennan April 27, 2011 at 08:21 PM
Actually David I think that the mill rate will increase and the amount that the government seeks to raise will increase. What will happen is the value of all real estate will drop probably by about 30% from its peak. That will mean that the Budget total divided by the total amount of property which determines the mill rate must increase. What unfortunately will happen is those that have cars will see a 30% increase in their local property taxes as the mill rate on those cars will be much greater. So lets say that you drive a $30,000 car today. It is valued at $21,000 70% of the value. Now if the mill rate is 20 that will mean that you pay $420 each year to own that car in Newtown. Now next year you will pay instead of $420 approximately $600 dollars to own the same car since cars are not subject to revaluation. So it is really hard to guage whether you will pay more or less as it depends on the ratio of cars to real estate but I would guess that you will pay more. This coupled with the increase in income tax from the GOV. will probably increase your taxes by about $1,000 per year. $200 car, $500 for no property tax reduction and another $300 for the extra the town will want unless we stop it. Now this will decrease your property value by about $15,000 and then add to that the transfer tax and you can take about a $20,000 hit on your asset. Wow what a deal.
cathy sullivan April 27, 2011 at 11:14 PM
No increase in taxes should be tolerated during this Recession/Depression. None of us are getting raises and the price of gas is ridiculous.
Susan McGuinness Getzinger April 28, 2011 at 03:14 AM
Mr. Brennan, I agree with you about the company that worked on FFH not being allowed to bid here anymore. They are not only the same company as the Middletown fatalities, but also, they did the new (5 yrs old) Oxford HS that showed cracks this winter, the Torrington Middle School, where the town just paid $600,00.00 to fix a bad HVAC system that purportedly made people sick. The OCR informed the school district there to move all the impaired (section 504) children until system fixed. Guess what...suddenly no 504 students identified! Guess which law firm represents that school district....same one that represent Newtown! I wonder if that has anything to do with my child not being identified as 504 and why the attorney supposedly chose a former firm attorney as the "impartial" judge in my case?
Informed April 28, 2011 at 03:36 AM
Actually most schools in our DRG don't have full day Kindergarten. (A DRG is a grouping of towns that have the same financial status as ours - We are in DRG B with towns like Brookfield who also do not have full day but have partial full day and still manage to spend less per student than we do. http://www.cabe.org/uploaded/About_CABE/CABE_Awards/2009_Bonnie_DRG_Map_with_CABE_Areas.pdf )
Janice Rossi April 28, 2011 at 01:15 PM
Well Said! History shows this is the worst time to raise taxes.
Bill Furrier April 28, 2011 at 01:50 PM
Doug, Your gloomy scenario is missing one important fact, that not only will you be taxed more and will your property be worth less, but the value of the money that we earn and the little wealth that we have will be declining due to the Fed’s excess printing of money. So, while we earn the same dollars and pay more in taxes, the little money we have left buys less and less goods and services. Consider the rising price of oil and also consider that a 2003 dollar bought 1/300th an ounce of Gold; but now only 1/1500th an ounce, that’s a dollar decline vs. Gold by a factor of five!
Susan McGuinness Getzinger April 28, 2011 at 03:32 PM
To clarify - the attorneyes for the Torrington School District are the same attorneys representing our School District of Newtown.
Informed April 28, 2011 at 08:19 PM
Don't you wish that could actually work. Unfortunately they do have a vital role and I think it is my understanding that Newtown has more Lead Teachers than Assistant Principals. Maybe they should take pay cuts though. I mean they earn their money that is for sure. They get what they deserve. BUT Teachers don't get what they deserve for what they do, Teacher Assistants don't make what they deserve, Bus drivers, Custodians etc., so why should the administration be the only one that is making what they deserve.

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