Voters reject spending plan a third time; next referendum won't be until at least September
North Stonington - Taxpayers rejected the proposed 2012-13 budget for the third time Monday, leaving the town without a spending plan until at least September.
Residents defeated the $6.3 million general government budget 438-325 and the $12.1 million school budget 419-344. About 21 percent or 763 of the town's 3,615 registered voters cast ballots - 65 more than at the last budget referendum. The budget had totaled $18.4 million, a $460,000 increase.
First Selectman Nicholas H. Mullane said success with the next referendum will come through feedback and cooperation.
"We've got to collect input from residents," he said, as well as talk to the Board of Finance and the Board of Education to decide what items to revise.
But that will be a challenge in the weeks to come, said Board of Finance Chairman Daniel Spring.
"It's going to be hard to cut more than we have already," he said. "We have to find what in the budget is the hot point, the issue."
The primary source of opponent ire at the July 23 town meeting was the proposed tax rate which would have increased from 20.29 to 24.25.
But Spring said residents' frustration actually stems from a misunderstanding of this year's revaluation of properties.
The value of residential properties dropped an average of 16 percent, Spring said, which forced the Board of Finance to raise the tax rate accordingly.
"It's simple math," he said. "It's not smoke and mirrors."
While the tax rate has risen significantly, Spring said the majority of people are not actually paying more taxes than last year. Eight-two percent will pay no more than a $300 increase, while 67 percent will pay no more than $100 more.
Mullane said another town meeting and ensuing referendum will have to wait until after the Aug. 14 primary, as the voting machines must be locked for two weeks following any vote. That will bring the calendar up to Labor Day, which he said he'll want to avoid in order to accommodate long-weekend vacationers.
"We're going to take our time and make sure we get it right this time," he said.
Until then, the town will continue to operate on the budget from last the last fiscal year, which ended June 30.
After residents defeated the second proposal by a 2-1 margin, the general government budget was cut by $115,000 and the Board of Education budget by $300,000.