Turnout at today's budget referendum was lagging about 500 votes behind the number of ballots cast at the same time during the first referendum in 2013 according to a spokesperson staffing the local Registrars of Voters office.
At the 2 pm hourly tally, 1,400 ballots had been cast. There were 1,914 budget ballots cast at the same time during the first budget vote in 2013.
In the days and weeks leading up to today's referendum, some officials worried privately that the lack of controversy throughout this year's budget process might cause fewer residents to come out and vote.
Legislative Council Chair Mary Ann Jacob spent time Tuesday morning and planned to spend more time standing near the Middle School and in Sandy Hook center holding pro-budget signs reminding drivers to make a stop at the polls.
"I would encourage everyone to get out and vote," Ms Jacob said. "I think there is a general feeling of well being becasue of the zero increase, so we need to remain vigilant and express our opinions at the polls even if we are satified with the proposal."
Qualified voters may cast bifurcated, or split town and school budget ballots, in person today, April 22, at Newtown Middle School until 8 pm.
Earlier this month, the council endorsed sending a request for $111,066,204 to voters to cover town and school services, along with annual debt service for capital projects, which is carried in the Board of Selectmen budget.
While the approved budget request represents a 0.91 percent increase in spending above the current year, because of updated revenue projections, the spending plan requires 0.02 percent less in taxation than the current operating budget — and will require a 2014-15 tax rate of 33.31 mills, representing no change, or what is commonly termed “zero increase.”
Those added revenues included $562,000 in grand list growth, $275,000 in additional supplemental motor vehicle taxes, and $152,000 in unanticipated or previously unbudgeted state grants and payments.
Voters will decide on separate requests by the Board of Education for $71,345,304 (0.42 percent increase), and the Board of Selectmen for $39,720,900 (1.78 percent increase), which includes debt service of $10,342,994 (2.8 percent increase).
As a result of a recent charter change, eligible voters will also be asked to approve or reject each budget line, as well as an advisory question on whether they believe each budget request is too low.