The Board of Selectmen on April 21 received several updates. Newtown Hook & Ladder representative Rick Camejo reported to the selectmen that he believed the signing of a contract to purchase property from Trinity Church to site the company's new headquarters was imminent. After a wait of several months, a lease was finalized permitting Newtown Parent Connection to begin renovations and to eventually occupy one of several duplexes on the former state hospital campus. The selectmen also briefly discussed a new planned facilities study.
Anna Wiedemann has been selected by the Democratic Town Committee as the honoree for their 2014 Jefferson-Jackson-Bailey Dinner. Ms Wiedemann was chosen because of her extensive contributions to Newtown. A resident of Sandy Hook, Ms Wiedemann has contributed her time and talents to numerous groups in Newtown for more than a quarter century. The 2014 JJB Dinner is planned for Thursday, May 15, in The Alexandria Room at Edmond Town Hall. This is a bipartisan event; all are welcome.
The Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) has put the Forest Fire Danger Level for Thursday, April 24, at Very High. Forest fire danger levels are classified as Low, Moderate, High, Very High or Extreme. In addition, the National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for all of Connecticut, which remains in effect until 8 pm. All open burn permits have been suspended. Newtown’s fire companies have responded to at least eight brush fires since March 26, including one that kept Botsford Fire Rescue and Sandy Hook Fire & Rescue in the area of Great Ring and High Rock roads for a few hours last month.
Amid cheers from local officials and residents who gathered at Newtown Middle School, town polling officials revealed totals from a first round budget referendum that overwhelmingly approved both a school district and town spending package, along with debt service on capital borrowing for the 2014-15 fiscal year. The Board of Selectmen's municipal budget including debt service on bonding passed 2,571 to 738, while the school district request passed 2,421 to 868 Town Clerk Debbie Halstead confirmed late Wednesday. In all, 3,320 ballots were cast according to polling officials.
Newtown loves a parade, and there is no parade Newtown loves more than the annual Newtown Labor Day Parade. Determining the parade’s theme and its grand marshal are among the priorities Parade Committee volunteers tackle when planning begins in the dark, cold days of winter. “Every year, we receive many suggestions as to what the parade theme should be,” said Newtown Labor Day Parade Committee President Beth Caldwell.
The first "zero increase" budget in recent memory is now before voters in the annual budget referendum. Qualified voters may cast bifurcated, or split town and school budget ballots, in person today, April 22, at Newtown Middle School, until 8 pm. On April 2, 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.”
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.
Keno, the unwanted child of Connecticut politics, vilified by gambling opponents and publicly defended by no major political figure, improbably remains alive as the General Assembly begins the last two weeks of the 2014 session. The leaders of the House and Senate, after calling for the repeal of the electronic lottery game after an improving revenue forecast in January indicated the state could afford to forgo new gambling income, now are hedging their bets. "It’s in the budget until somebody finds an alternative funding source,” said Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr. (D-Brooklyn). House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey (D-Hamden) said he intends to “reserve judgment” on repeal until he sees revenue figures at the end of April, a key month for income-tax collections. Opponents are dumbfounded. After all, Governor Dannel P. Malloy all but disowned it.