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Education Budget Passes By 877 Votes



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Facing a second referendum to decide the fate of the proposed 2024-25 Board of Education budget on May 14, residents this time gave a resounding nod to the reduced bottom line, passing it 2075 Yes to 1198 No, an 877 vote margin.

The advisory question, “if not approved, should the revised budget be higher,” received 1611 Yes votes to 1613 No votes. The turnout was 17.4%, with 3,281 total residents casting a vote, 3,190 in person and 91 via absentee ballot.

At the previous budget referendum on April 23, the education budget failed, 1,701 No votes to 1,194 Yes votes.

“I’m grateful to the community for turning out to vote and for supporting the Board of Education’s budget,” said Board of Education Chairman Alison Plante. “While we have difficult decisions ahead to meet the $1.4 million reduction from the Legislative Council, I’m confident the Board will make every attempt to maintain the strongest possible instructional core and do what is best for our students.”

The town budget passed, 1,465 Yes votes to 1,424 No votes on April 23, and was not part of the May 14 referendum.

The approved bottom line is $87,409,066, a $2,339,415 or 2.75% spending increase over the 2023-24 budget. The previous proposed 2024-25 BOE budget rejected by voters was $88,817,373, which would have been a $3,747,722 or 4.4% spending increase.

With the previously approved town budget of $48,834,506, a $1,308,366 or 2.75% spending increase, this gives an overall bottom line of $136,243,572, a $6,087,137 or 2.67% spending increase.

The mill rate will increase from 26.24 to 26.97 mills, a .73 mill or 2.77% tax increase.

Superintendent of Schools Chris Melillo said he was “relieved” the budget passed.

“The budget I presented to the Board of Education was a lean budget but still had some school enhancements,” said Melillo. “Those have been tabled. To get to the 2.75% number will be challenging. We’ll do the best we can to keep the cuts away from the students.”

Melillo said the BOE would be discussing the cuts at its next meeting on May 21.

Following a rejection of the school budget by 507 votes at a referendum on April 23, the Legislative Council at its April 29 meeting slashed $1,408,307 from the Board of Education’s proposed 2024-25 budget.

The reduction was unanimously approved by all 12 councilmen, in contrast to a previous, pre-referendum meeting on March 27, where no bottom line for the school budget drew more than a simple majority of seven votes.

This year is the first time a budget has been voted down since 2013, when it took three votes before taxpayers approved the budget. This year, voters swung from a large margin against the education budget to a large margin approving of the education budget.

The turnout was the highest since 2017, and seems to be part of a trend of increasing participation at budget referenda.

In 2023, Newtown saw increased participation at its April budget vote with a turnout of approximately 8.8 percent, the first year of increased participation after years of waning participation, especially following the COVID pandemic. In 2022, participation was only 7.7 percent; in 2021, the turnout was 8.98 percent; in 2020, there was no budget referendum due to the pandemic; in 2019, turnout was 17 percent; in 2018, turnout was 15.7 percent; and in 2017, turnout was 19.9 percent.

Editor Jim Taylor can be reached at jim@thebee.com.

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