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Public Participation Is Important (And Easier Than You Think)



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On page seven of this week’s The Newtown Bee, the town has taken out a legal notice announcing that a public hearing for both the 2024-25 municipal and school proposed budgets, following their approvals by the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Education, respectively, will be conducted on February 15. Further details can be found in the notice.

This represents a chance for the public to weigh in on the state of these budgets, the services offered, and their effects on property taxes. As much as we all like to get wound up with national politics, most of those issues are far away from small town Connecticut. Meanwhile, Newtown’s budget has an effect on both the day-to-day lives of its residents as well as on each resident’s pocket book.

So it’s always a shame to see presidential elections pull in 80 percent participation at the polls, while over the last several years a budget referendum can’t even get ten percent of Newtown residents to vote, and the various public hearings on Newtown’s budgets prior to that vote often see little or even no participation whatsoever.

As reported last year following the 2023-24 budget referendum, according to Democratic Registrar of Voters LeReine Frampton, 1,720 out of 18,753 eligible voters participated, with 1,628 voting in person on April 25 and 62 voting absentee.

That represented an 8.8 percent turnout, marking an increase from the 2022 turnout of 7.7 percent.

That was a small reversal to a years-long trend. In 2021, the turnout was 8.98 percent; and while a 2020 budget referendum did not occur due to the COVID-19 pandemic (the Legislative Council was authorized to pass the budget), the 2019 budget referendum was passed with a 17 percent turnout; in 2018, the turnout was 15.7 percent; and in 2017, the turnout was 19.9 percent.

While finding a free Thursday evening is not always easy in this day and age, finding some time to express opinions can have an effect on the final outcome. And showing up at the public hearing is not the only way to make your voices heard — submitting a letter will place the resident’s thoughts on the record and will be included in the minutes of the meeting.

Those wishing to submit their thoughts on the proposed municipal budget may do so by visiting newtown-ct.gov/board-selectmen/webforms/contact-board-selectmen. That sends an e-mail to all three members of the Board of Selectmen. They may be contacted individually by e-mailing jeff.capeci@newtown-ct.gov, dan.cruson@newtown-ct.gov, and michelle.embreeku@newtown-ct.gov.

Information on the proposed municipal budget may be found at:




Those wishing to submit their thoughts on the proposed school budget may do so by e-mailing NewtownBOE@newtown.k12.ct.us. That sends an e-mail to all seven members of the Board of Education.

Information on the proposed school budget may be found at:



Additionally, a news article regarding differences of opinion in the BOE over the proposed school budget can be found in this week’s print edition.

The Bee hopes that more residents will avail themselves of the opportunity to do their duty as Americans and participate in important decision-making that affects the entire community. Even if February 15 is just not a good night and a week to write a letter is not enough time, there will be additional opportunities to weigh in. Following the public hearing with the BOS and BOE, the BOF will take up review of the entire budget package together in late February. This will be the point that the proposed mill rate for the budget year will be revealed, and give a better idea to residents of the tax implications.

Then following that board’s review, the Legislative Council will begin its final review. Finally, the budget goes to referendum the fourth Tuesday of April — this year April 23. The Bee asks that all residents find a few minutes of their day to cast a vote. Hopefully we can at least see participation return to pre-pandemic levels, if not higher.

Comments are open. Be civil.
1 comment
  1. qstorm says:

    Budget referendum non-voters understand that they have no power to curb the spending. On the other hand national election voters are truly hopeful that they can be on a winning team.

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