N. Branford budget rejected; low turnout fails to make it count

Published: Wednesday, May 13, 2009
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

NORTH BRANFORD — Voters rejected the town’s 2009-10 budget at referendum Tuesday, but the turnout was not high enough to make the vote binding.

The budget failed by a count of 441-123, a turnout of 6.2 percent. The annual referendum is nonbinding if voter turnout is less than 15 percent.

The $45.25 million budget represents a 2.84 percent increase from the 2008-09 package, and taxes are projected to rise 4 percent, to $25.95 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

The referendum allowed voters to specify why they were rejecting the budget.

The vast majority, 437 people, said that it was too high, while four voters said that the budget was too low.

The nonbinding nature of the referendum means that the Town Council is not required to make any changes to the budget based on the vote. Mayor Michael Doody said he expects the Town Council to discuss and adopt the proposed budget at its meeting Tuesday.

The budget includes $11.8 million for town operations and $28.75 million for the school district.

With several building projects under way or recently completed, the town’s debt service is slated to increase 23 percent to $4.62 million this fiscal year.

Doody said he thought that the low voter turnout indicated residents were generally satisfied with the town’s handling of the budget in a difficult economic year.

“My personal opinion (is) the people have faith in the Town Council and what the Town Council is doing that’s why they’re not coming out to vote,” Doody said. “They’re satisfied with the process.”

Voter turnout was up slightly from last year’s budget referendum, when about 4 percent of the voters participated.

Doody said that the town worked to keep expenses down. The budget for town operations is the same as it was for fiscal 2008-09, and the Board of Education’s budget includes a 1.35 percent increase.

“It was a zero growth on the town side, it was small growth on the Board of Education side, but, you know, next year’s going to be even a tougher year,” he said.

“We’re talking over a one mill debt increase next year.”

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