Residents vote down Stonington budget

Stonington — Town taxpayers rejected the proposed 2012-13 budget and its 0.42-mill tax rate increase by just 32 votes Tuesday evening. A mere 19 percent — 2,282 — of the town's 12,167 registered voters cast ballots.

The 1,157-1,125 rejection of what would have been the town's largest tax rate increase in five years means the Board of Finance will meet today at 7 p.m. at the police station to cut the $57.1 million proposal in preparation for a second referendum vote.

Much of that cut could come from the proposed $33.2 million school budget and its $1.3 million, 4.1 percent increase.

Finance board Chairman Glenn Frishman had said that if voters turned down the budget, his board would have to cut the school's increase because that's where the money is. After the results were announced Tuesday, Frishman said his position remained the same.

When the finance board finalized the budget two weeks ago, it restored the $156,215 that it originally had cut from the school proposal after a large group of school supporters urged it to do so.

Without that amount, a number of items would have been cut, including $120,000 to hire two staff members to help students struggling with math; $15,400 from high school sports; and $4,600 from high school extracurricular activities.

"We restored the money and gave them a chance to pass the budget, and it failed," Frishman said.

It is likely that much more than $156,215 will be cut from the school budget tonight.

First Selectman Ed Haberek said he had thought the budget was going to be approved.

"I knew that parents worked hard to get the vote out," he said. "But it's a democracy, and the voters have spoken."

The results were delayed Tuesday slightly as voters had to cast paper ballots this year. The computerized vote scanners typically used had to be locked up through Tuesday in case there were any questions about the results of the April 24 Republican presidential primary.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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