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Council Moves Town, School Budget Requests To Referendum



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UPDATE (April 24, 2019): This story has been updated changing an incorrect reference to a Sandy Hook capital project and correcting the amount of a bonding authorization request for Hawley School.

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The Legislative Council has endorsed sending separate 2019-20 municipal and school district budget proposals to voters for consideration with a 1.56 percent overall increase in spending. Annual referendum polling will be Tuesday, April 23, from 6 am to 8 pm, at Newtown Middle School Gymnasium, 11 Queen Street.

Following nearly three hours of deliberations Wednesday, April 3, the council settled on referring a municipal budget request totaling $42,179,503, and a separate school district request for $78,104,410 to vote. It should be noted that the municipal budget carries all capital project debt service costs for both the town and school district.

If both budgets — with a combined total of $120,283,913 — are approved by voters, it will generate a 2019-20 net increase of $2,662,714 or 1.56 percent bump over the current year. The corresponding projected mill rate would be 34.77.

A mill represents one dollar in taxation for every $1,000 in taxable property.

The selectmen’s original request amounted to a 2.75 percent increase over the 2018-19 adopted budget and included a $250,000 proposed increase in the Capital Roads line for continued local road improvements and maintenance.

The Board of Selectmen’s proposed town-wide spend — following a nominal finance board amendment adding $12,000 for daytime fire apparatus drivers in Hawleyville and Dodgingtown — was increased to $42,207,726 before it was first sent to the council.

But in the ensuing couple of weeks, additional savings were developed by First Selectman Dan Rosenthal as part of a combination of salary actions and staff reductions in the Town Clerk’s office. Part of a salary increase for the first selectman that was approved by the council also had to be factored into next year’s budget.

School District Request

The council also weighed a Board of Education budget request totaling $78,104,410, a roughly 2.7 percent increase from the current year, which was recommended by the finance board with no adjustments.

Council members vigorously debated elements in the school district request, including supply savings, the timing of planned new administrative hires, the special education contingency account, and planned maintenance projects.

But in the end, the council sent the spending plan as recommended by the finance board to voters for final consideration, with three council members voting against it.

At referendum, voters will also be asked to approve or reject both budget recommendations, along with four capital spending authorizations: $1 million for capital roads, $2.7 million for a high school boiler/lighting replacement, a Hawley School boiler replacement and lighting retrofit totaling $783,200, and $290,000 to cover the cost of creating four new regulation pickleball courts at Fairfield Hills.

If that final measure passes, an anonymous donor has pledged an additional $25,000 to complete the new pickleball court project.

Absentee Ballot Availability

With the passage of the budget to referendum, Town Clerk Debbie Aurelia Halstead has announced that absentee ballots will be available for the referendum during office hours beginning Monday, April 8, and up until closing time the Monday before the Tuesday, April 23 budget vote.

Office hours at the Newtown Municipal Center, 3 Primrose Street, are Monday through Friday, 8 am to 4:30 pm. The Town Clerk’s office will also hold Special Absentee Voting Hours Saturday, April 20, from 9 am to noon.

Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Sections 7-6, any person who is a registered voter in the Town of Newtown or who is a US citizen assessed for at least $1,000 for real estate or motor vehicles on the 2018 Grand List for the Town of Newtown is qualified to vote at the referendum.

Any qualified person who meets any of the following criteria may vote by absentee ballot:

1) active service in the armed forces,

2) absence from the town during all the hours of voting,

3) illness,

4) physical disability,

5) religious tenets which forbid secular activity on the day of the referendum or

6) duties as a referendum official at a polling place other than the official’s own during all hours of voting.

Absentee ballots can be returned in person to the office of the Town Clerk by 4:30 pm on Monday, April 22, or by mail, or with a qualified designee before the closing of the polls on Referendum day — 8 pm, April 23.

Absentee ballots will be counted at the Municipal Center on referendum day at 5 pm. For more information, contact the Town Clerk’s office at 203-270-4210.

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