Resident Frank Lasky stood outside Newtown Middle School at 7:45 pm as he waited for the announcement about the budget referendum. “A lot of us are voting yes because of the people who are voting for money in the education budget.” He shrugged and said, “A one percent increase is not that bad.”
In the end, the numbers were close, with only 114 votes defeating the budget. There were 2,112 total Yes votes, and 2,226 No.
Carly Kron, one of those residents who waited for the results, said that she felt a silent majority of parents didn’t know how they would vote until they walked into the gymnasium to file their ballots.
First Selectman Pat Llodra said that she had received 22 phone calls throughout the day from people who were unsure how to vote.
“I could not have called this election,” Independent Party Chairman Bruce Walczak said, “but I think they didn’t give anyone a reason to vote. People feel the education budget has been singled out unfairly, and people felt they just couldn’t vote for this budget.”
Walczak felt the way to get the budget passed was to eliminate $200,00 from the town budget and put money back into the education budget.
“Traditionally, the way they got the budget passed was to cut 1/3 from town, and 2/3 from education. It was almost a formula the way they cut it. This is the first time to my knowledge that they cut education and nothing from the town,” he said. “I guess we’ll know tomorrow night.”
Michele Assante, Newtown parent, has been studying the budget and has recently gained some notoriety for her detail oriented approach, according to Walczak.
Assante believes that the Legislative Council meeting on Wednesday night will be an important one for Newtown. “We need people to come to the LC and tell them how and why they voted the way they did.”
“We are moving in the wrong direction," she said. "As time goes on, more and more people are upset about the education budget. We are nowhere near a same service budget for education. We are at best 1/2 million short.”
Assante said that at the last meeting of the Legislative Council, a council member said he had received 300 emails from people who were dissatisfied with the education budget, though Assante admitted that some of those were from residents who felt the numbers were too high. However, Assante was firm in her belief that “the budget never passes without education supporters.”
"When an initial referendum fails, I think everyone would think a cut is warranted but that they cut a million dollars and cut it all from education. It was too much of a leap," she said.
While what happens at the Legislative Council meeting on Wednesday night will be anyone’s guess. Walczak said, “Right now, everyone has a reason to vote no, and no one has been given a reason to vote yes.”