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Town, School Budgets Both Pass Handily



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More than 29 percent of Newtown's eligible voters turned out to vote April 26, many traveling between two polling places to cast ballots for the state's Presidential Primary as well as Newtown's municipal and school district budgets.

Those budgets, on separate ballots, both passed handily with 4,992 votes cast as polls closed at the Newtown Middle School at 8 pm.

The combined and approved $114,182,379 budget requests increase overall spending by 1.62 percent and results in a 33.6 mill tax rate. A mill represents one dollar for every $1,000 in taxable property.

The unverified vote counts, including absentee ballots were as follows:

Shall the sum of $40,517,314 be appropriated as the budget for the Board of Selectmen for the fiscal year? Yes: 2,765 No: 2,288

Shall the sum of $73,665,065 be appropriated for the budget for the Board of Education for the fiscal year? Yes: 2,730 No: 2,320

Advisory Questions responses including absentee ballots were:

Do you deem the proposed sum of $40,517,314 to be appropriated for the Board of Selectmen as "too low"? Yes: 651 No: 4,175

Do you deem the proposed sum of $73,665,065 to be appropriated for the Board of Education as "too low"? Yes: 1,299 No: 3,567

Officials including First Selectman Pat Llodra, Board of Education Chairman Keith Alexander, Council Chair Mary Ann Jacob and School Superintendent Joseph V Erardi, Jr applauded and cheered the results as they were read by moderator Wendy Sherman.

"I am relieved and pleased, " Mrs Llodra said.

The first selectman said that various town government bodies that work on the municipal side of the budget before presenting it to residents "did a good job examining the budget, making reductions where they could and brought voters a spending plan with the best interest of the community in mind. We'll execute at the best level."

Legislative Council Chairman Mary Ann Jacob said she was also pleased.

"It's an affirmation that we struck the right balance." People supported the budget despite comments against the budget on social media," she said.

Board of Education Chair Keith Alexander was "very happy that we had a good turn out and that people are pleased with the work we're doing to come out and vote yes."

Since he came to the community, Dr Erardi has made himself available both to individual residents, and various groups, to explain and answer any or all questions posed about the districts proposed spending plans. Upon hearing the results, he credited the school board and his administrative colleagues for their work.

"I'm extraordinarily proud of the work our board has done in partnership with other elected officials," Dr Erardi said. "And I'm particularly proud of parents and staff who understood the importance of a first referendum yes vote. And I think a large turnout worked greatly to the school board and the town's advantage."

The superintendent said he was pleased with the margin of affirmative votes as well.

"It's a great day for the students of Newtown," he said.

Reflecting on the many residents he had the opportunity to speak with in the days and weeks since the final budget requests were put forward by the Legislative Council, Dr Erardi said he was able to sleep soundly the night before the referendum knowing he did everything possible to accommodate anyone with a question or concern.

"For those who held a quiet belief that a first referendum pass was un-doable, I'm hoping this is a precedent we will see occurring in the future," he said. "We had a lot of conversations, and if you present with integrity, and you can share information that makes sense, that's the best way to explain $74 million. I think seniors especially realized the importance of supporting great schools and their votes were as important as those of our parents."

Ms Jacob also said the responses to ballot questions also affirmed that the majority of budget voters felt the proposed budget requests were justified.

Council Chair Mary Ann Jacob applauds as the final 2016-17 budget numbers revealed that both requests had passed handily. (Bee photo, Bobowick)
School Superintendent Joseph V Erardi, Jr and Board of Education member Michelle Ku listen attentively as 2016-17 budget results are read at Newtown Middle School April 26. (Bee photo, Bobowick)
Local officials including Legislative Council Chair Mary Ann Jacob, lefy, and First Selectman Pat Llodra were poised to take down numbers as moderators readied final budget referendum tallies at Newtown Middle School April 26. (Bee photo, Bobowick)
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