New London - The spokesman for Looking Out for Taxpayers delivered petitions to City Hall Thursday morning with more than 850 signatures calling for a second referendum on the budget.
William Cornish walked into the City Clerk's office, where Assistant City Clerk Dawn Currier time-stamped the documents. At least 483 signatures, or 10 percent of the those who voted in the last municipal election, were needed for the petition to be valid.
Some residents are upset at the $41.3 million 2012-13 budget, which represents a 5.1 percent tax increase. But some are also protesting the administration's attempt to quash a second referendum.
Avner Gregory, who joined Cornish in delivering the petition, said residents were "very earnest and ready to sign" the petition.
"There are citizens that do have a backbone, and this is the proof," he said. He said citizens as a form of protest could choose not to pay their taxes if the city continues to not listen.
Cornish said the LOT group wants the city to reduce the budget and lower the tax rate. The city can use an $800,000 reserve for uncollected taxes to lower the budget, he said.
"Our contention is, collect the taxes," he said. "You don't need a reserve fund if you collect the taxes."
Cornish also said he wanted to ensure the rights of citizens are respected.
"We are free to petition our government," he said.
Last month, voters defeated a $42.3 million budget, which represented a 7.5 percent tax increase. The council approved a new budget after cutting about $1 million.
Before anyone had organized for a new petition, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio announced that a second referendum would be illegal. He originally told City Clerk Nathan Caron not to accept petitions but later amended his directive to say that while petitions can be accepted, the clerk's office should not spend any resources to certify the signatures.
Finizio said the city cannot have a second budget referendum because it has expended more than 25 percent of its yearly budgetary allocation.
Any further direction on action or inaction resulting from the petitions will come from City Law Director Jeffrey Londregan, Currier said Thursday.
Council President Michael Passero has said voters have the right to petition. Under the city charter, once the council receives a petition from the clerk with the required number of certified signatures, it has the option of lowering the budget or bringing it to a citywide vote. The clerk has an obligation to review and validate any petitions, he said, citing a 2007 lawsuit filed against the city.
The next City Council meeting is Nov. 5.
The Committee of Petitioners for the petition included Gregory, Susan Plunkett, Dwight Gross, Andrew R. Lockwood Sr. and Barbara Hample.