Are the people of North Stonington really outraged about the proposed level of spending in their town? It would certainly be hard to reach that conclusion from the results of the latest, and third, referendum rejecting the spending plan. It appears there is more disinterest than outrage.
Only about one-in-five registered voters showed up at the polls on another nice summer day Monday. Those who did bother to vote defeated the proposed $6.3 million general government budget 438-325 and the $12.1 million school budget 419-344. The spending plans would mean a 3.96-mill tax rate increase to 24.25 mills.
Normally that would be one heck of a tax hike, but North Stonington just went through a revaluation that saw assessments drop by an average of 16 percent. As a result, the mill rate had to be hiked substantially to support a modest increase in spending.
Because assessments are down, tax hikes for most will be small, with 82 percent of property owners paying no more than a $300 increase, and 67 percent no more than a $100 increase, according to Board of Finance calculations.
How do the vast majority of property owners feel about this, those 79 percent who did not bother to vote? Their lack of fervor would suggest either they are OK with the spending proposals or totally disinterested and apparently ready to pay whatever tax bill shows up in the mailbox. But by sitting out the referenda they have left the decision to others, those worked up about, and perhaps confused with the large mill-rate increase.
So the selectmen and school board will continue to cut away at town services and school programming.
The next budget vote will not take place at least until September. Perhaps then parents, confronting cuts in school programs, will recognize the cost of their inaction and start paying attention.