The Budget Passes After Five Referendums

Relief flooded the faces of those who waited to hear the final results.

After four failed attempts, Newtown's 2012-13 budget has finally passed. Thirty-one percent of the town's 16,000 voters turned out today to cast their ballot and, in the end, there were 156 more yes votes -- 2,568 to 2,412. 

There were tears in the eyes of Debbie Leidlein, chairman of the Board of Education, as members of the Legislative Council and Board of Finance laughed and hugged when the results came in, announcing they were grateful they will not be coming back in three weeks.  

This was the fifth referendum, and one jubilant voter, Ali Legros, said she voted yes, “Because it was time to get these shenanigans over with.” 

Now that the vote has passed, it is expected there will be an announcement by the Board of Education about whether full day kindergarten will be available this fall.   

The $106,146,838 budget that passed includes the $68,355,794 education budget and represents a .69 percent tax increase. 

A happy but tired First Selectman Patricia Llodra said in a telephone interview, “I am very pleased we are through this challenge and we are looking forward to a change in the process next year.  Last night, the Legislative Council charged nine people with finding a strategy which could include a bifurcated budget or questions.  Clearly this process has taught us that we don’t have the kind of precision our voters need.” 

“I am relieved we are through the challenge," she added, "but there are a lot of challenges ahead.” 

Sam Mihailoff July 16, 2012 at 12:33 AM
the reasons for the removal from the agenda were clearly stated several times at the meeting and also cleary documented on the video of the meeting..see hypelink http://view.liveindexer.com/ViewIndexSessionSLMQ.aspx?ecm=634779810183775000&indexSessionSKU=Ho4/wr4WcwWyCHIhCnOniQ%3D%3D&siteSKU=0eiAIntRj6kCzB5Ag38V1A%3d%3d
Po Murray July 16, 2012 at 01:07 AM
Debbie L. stated the budget discussion was not on the agenda because Ron B. was not available to explain the budget details. The public participants could not comment on the budget at the 1st public participation but the BOE chair was able to discuss the budget during the meeting and made statements such as "We have identified the items that bridge the gap" and "The information that was presented is accurate and correct" . If she was so confident in the numbers and the informaiton was accurate then she should have been able to answer any budget questions that may have been brought up at the meeting. It is a shame that two days before the budget referendum, this item was removed from the agenda and the public participants had to wait hours and hours until the end of the meeting to be able to comment on the budget. There were many budget documents floating around and many of us had questions about the budget. It would have been nice to have greater clarity before the referendum date.
Sam Mihailoff July 16, 2012 at 01:29 AM
Hear Hear...Po, the referendum is over I suppose it could have gone the way it did last year...The EA's are the most important creatures in the school As soon as the budget passed...well you watch the about face and by WHOM Janet's comments are just OUTSTANDING http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-ngpwPWvBE&feature=player_embedded
Po Murray July 16, 2012 at 01:47 AM
Sam, The LC and then the voters who accepted the budget at the referendum force the administrators and the BOE to choose between a rock and a hard place. They must attempt to justify their decision. Instead of cutting teaching positions, they cut EAs. Instead of cutting teachers, they moved away from O/O to save $900K on tranportation. Imagine how many teaching positions they would be cutting if the BOE did not realize almost $900K in savings from changing over to Allstar. Instead of cutting teachers, the superintendent and the BOE already cut almost a million from their maintenance budget. The BOF/LC cut $1.7MM then returned $200K. I get it that the BOE/administration found some efficiencies (staff turnover, fuel, Allstar etc...) but $1.5MM worth of efficiencies? They have been stealing from Paul to pay Peter for years now. It is what this community is forcing them to do with increases that are are far below 1%. Newtown is accepting lower and lower per pupil expenditure year after year. With towns such as Bethel and New Fairfield increasing their budgets by $1.3MM, Newtown per pupil expenditure will be lower. We are at $384,000 more. Currently only 20 towns spend less than Newtown.
Sam Mihailoff July 16, 2012 at 02:38 AM
Po, our ideas about education shall never ever ever ever be in agreement. You think throwing more money in is the answer...I think money although necessary is not the panacea, and every class, course, interest group is NOT a matter for public funding. I do think this was at least our first “rather pleasant” discourse...I believe the town government should award both of us “certificates of merit” for this alone. The cost would be minimal, just several inkjet printed certificates just like that big time Music Communities Award from NAMM. Have a pleasant week Mrs. Murray
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com July 16, 2012 at 11:37 AM
Kathy, same old game, why not allow both yes and no voters to indicate too high or too low, not just the no voters. Is the LC afraid to find out how many vote yes but feel the budget is too low?
Realist July 16, 2012 at 11:52 AM
I was just reading some other stuff on patch and noticed carminuccios didn't have a very good star rating so I checked to see what the reviews were. One from Sam, not a bad review and one from s.q. A great review saying the 'pizza never fails' carminuccios is the yummiest and yet most expensive pizza around. You two moan about the budget raise, and can afford this place. I have to buy pizza from pizza palace for my family of four, yet I've voted yes to the budget every time. Couldn't believe it. Must be nice.
Arthur Hill July 16, 2012 at 01:16 PM
I don't think voters would approve any Charter Revision that would allow the LC to over rule a referendum vote. Anything like that would be defeated in November.
Sam Mihailoff July 16, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Realist...I did vote yes...most reluctantly The issue is not the few extra tax dollars whatsoever...it is HOW THE MONEY IS SPENT...the thought process or lack thereof...the incompetency of those running the ship (schools system) what REALLY is received for the money spent and volumes more. As for Carmanuccio’s, I went only once; because of the written hype of the“nation’s best award’...kind of like reading the NAMM award for the Best Community for Music........If you strictly go by the written word, one can go ooo ahhh...however how many pizza places “nationwide” were even used to make the determination. Out of thousands upon thousands of communities in these United States, only 237 even bothered to submit the application for that very bogus “music award”...NO Westport, No Fairfield, on and on...It’s all a rouse ...Mail it in ...inkjet certificate returns in the mail.... Thanks, makes for a grrrrreat analogy . Sure do wish both were as N I C E as what's advertised. http://www.nammfoundation.org/press-room/namm-foundation-176-programs-earn-distinction-best-community-music-education
Realist July 16, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Sam. I actually appreciate your comment here, and your yes vote. I wish in previous blogs you had been this articulate rather than angry, and negative. I too want accountability and there is nothing I hate more than wasteful spending, so perhaps we have this in common. I think the no voters and the people that believe in education should come together, to streamline and get more for our money. Why can't we do this? Why do we have to fight each other?
Sam Mihailoff July 16, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Realist... “I wish in previous blogs you had been this articulate rather than angry, and negative” come on...live up to your moniker and "keep cool" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zzfPOo2VGc&feature=related
SuperDave July 23, 2012 at 04:18 PM
In my town, I have friend who actually VOTED FOR a tax increase simply because his wife is a teacher and the tax increase benefitted him. As industry shrinks and taxable entities move away, you will see more of this. Someday soon: your house will be worth 100K, and you will pay 100K in tax.
Fred Ferraro September 27, 2012 at 05:33 AM
I don't want to move and there are plenty of ways to have quality education without an extremely high mil rate. Maybe you should pay more in taxes since you don't seem to mind to offset for others. Parents with children in school seem to have NO problem demanding increased education funding and accuse anyone who disagrees of with them not caring about the children. Well, let me tell you, I went to Newtown High School and graduated in 2003 and there were many many things that the school wasted money on. But for some reason people think that education should just get as much money as possible without any regards to the quality of the education.
Fred Ferraro September 27, 2012 at 05:35 AM
Ok, so there are numerous problems with this budget: Education Budget ~68.3 million out of ~106.2 million dollars in the total budget, of Which 54 million includes salaries and benefits which have gone up a total of 2.02%, -Yet Total Enrollment is down 1.6% School budget increasing .57%, although a small increase, how can any increase be justified when taken in context of lower home values and reduced enrollment? Police: Why is ~100k a year being spent to replace 3 police patrol cars a year? Many of the town’s patrol cars seem to be in very good condition despite what is listed in the budget, many cars can continue to perform well past 100k miles and based on their own indicators the town police are conducting very few major pursuits or engaged in the solving of many serious crimes. The 3 million dollar police salary budget supports 44 officers. 20 of whom earn approx. 68,000 a year but the average in the state is closer to 48k, though only the lowest grade officers in the town earn that amount. Is this size department really justified for a town of less than 30,000 people? The Police Measures and Indicators on page 138 of the Town Budget indicate that major crimes are rare in the town, the majority of police activity being traffic summons and warnings. Does this lack of major crime actually justify the size and expense of the department? Also can the town truly justify the expense of a K9 unit?
Po Murray September 27, 2012 at 10:02 AM
Fred, Could you list how the schools wasted money when you went to school in 2003?
Katie September 27, 2012 at 10:46 AM
Fred, I can't speak for every car that was replaced, but I do know that one of the patrol cars had its window kicked out and door frame bent by a 17 year old who was drunk and on lots of drugs. So, yeah, I think that car should be replaced. And yes, if you look into it, K-9 unit is used. . . A lot.
Big Family September 27, 2012 at 11:03 AM
Ah Po, Once again you miss the point, salary increases to public employees (you know, people that we pay) are not SUSTAINABLE while we are making less and being taxed more.
Po Murray September 27, 2012 at 11:09 AM
Ah Big Family, you sound just like Sam.
Paul Alexander September 27, 2012 at 11:28 AM
Fred, Welcome to the fight. Put on you kevlar and keep firing. Recruit your like minded friends. You are right on calling out the overspending and lack of ANY fiscal discipline in this town. You'll figure out who the idiots are quickly enough here.
Paul Alexander September 27, 2012 at 11:29 AM
BTW, Does anyone know if Hartford ever approved the ballot language for bifurcation???
Katie September 27, 2012 at 11:50 AM
Paul, I agree with you that there is overspending as well as lack of fiscal discipline. Its not just the amount of the budget, but how the people in charge are using it. Yet, we keep voting in the people that are spending irresponsibly.
Big Family September 27, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Po one of your problems is that I sound like a lot of people.
Sam Mihailoff September 27, 2012 at 02:23 PM
* Mrs. Murray...so you feel compelled to fire the first salvo...now it has been two months since I even addressed this thread, Are you slow or just bored today?? Aside from not addressing the thread whatsoever...why are you doing this ? To make me annoyed...I have more going on, than to allow your small mind and big pockets to bother me. But if you are looking for a fight BRING IT...now go do something productive, PLEASE Big Family is NOT I Yoda is NOT I Sam I am, and I hate IPN spin and spam
Fred Ferraro November 19, 2012 at 08:30 AM
For starters how about the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of shop equipment that was sitting down in C wing at the time and couldn't be used because the contractor the school hired installed all the wrong wiring and outlets.
Fred Ferraro November 19, 2012 at 08:34 AM
so... they could buy a new window or have the door frame repaired and, I am sure that there are many valid reasons for replacing cars etc... But to have a yearly program of replacement seems unnecessary. No, I do not know exactly what the K-9 unit is being used for, but based on the Police's own records there is very little violent crime in this town and it seems strange we would need one, or such a well equipped police force just to write tickets. Now I hear the police are pushing for a new building which, I might consider supporting if their salaries and other expenditures were not so bloated.
Fred Ferraro November 19, 2012 at 08:41 AM
Thank you! I wasn't really aware of the problem until recently. I moved back to town to be closer to SCSU in New Haven while I was finishing my Masters Degree and my father informed me during conversation of just how much we were paying in taxes. It is literally out of control here, I can't believe expenditures as well as taxes have increased despite a weakened economy in which every other level of government is trying to decrease spending. I could ALMOST see the increase in revenue IF expenditures were decreasing or the town was in a bind but that doesn't seem to be the case. How can education spending be increasing despite a decrease in enrollment? It just makes no logical sense. What we need to do is get ourselves to the budget meetings and when the people approving these increases go up for election we need to get them out. I plan on trying to talk to as many people as I can and, come April (I believe) when they have the public budget meetings my father and I will be there.
Fred Ferraro November 19, 2012 at 08:44 AM
Not sure... did you support the measure. It seemed like a good idea to me, now we can decide if the general or education budget passes. While there are problems with the general budge, like the police, many of it seems reasonable and what isn't is minor. I think the major problem is the education budget. I am by no means anti-education I went to NHS, UConn and now am at SCSU but quality education doesn't need to be expensive.
Fred Ferraro November 19, 2012 at 08:49 AM
Agreed. We need to get them out and get people in who are fiscally responsible while still maintaining appropriate levels of government services. As I said, better doesn't mean more expensive. I want police, fire, EMS, roads, schools just like everyone else... I just think we can do it smartly. For a town of less than 30,000 people we seem to be taking in a lot as well as spending a lot, yet so many of us get so few services.. no water, swear, no tree maintenance near utility lines, delayed plowing, poor quality roads ec.
Sam Mihailoff November 19, 2012 at 08:51 AM
Fred, don't think you are two months late to the party...all the elves are busy with their wants list for the budget Santa...I did not say needs...WANTS Read, if you dare!!! http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/newtowneducation/
Fred Ferraro November 19, 2012 at 08:59 AM
I completely agree. I do not have children, nor do my parents in Newtown Schools. Though I graduated from NHS in '03 and my brother in '06 so we understand the need for school funding, but it is totally out of control. From what I've heard/seen from people in town the quality has not gone up since 2003 and yet more and more money keeps getting pumped into the schools at the expensive of improving, roads the water/waste water system, and all sorts of other services as well as sucking families dry with the increased taxes. Some taxes are need of course, but it is ridiculous how high they are. my family has lived here since 99 and our taxes have gone up and up every year eating up more and more of our income. If we knew what it would have been like back then I think we would have looked in other towns for new homes.


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