BERLIN - By a vote of 780 to 329, residents did not adopt the $85.3 million budget recommended by the Town Council for the 2017-2018 year.
The total voter turnout of 1,109 equated to 7.9 percent of the total 14,040 registered voters in town. Last year’s vote saw a 30.3 percent turnout.
Along with the overall vote, two advisory questions were available for residents to vote on, asking if residents voted no on the budget 1) was the education portion too high or too low and 2) was the town (or general government) too high or low.
Residents voted 366 too high and 429 too low on question one, and 443 too high and 264 too low on question two.
Now the budget goes back to the council, where they will make any changes necessary and adopt it as final, by May 5.
Mayor Mark Kaczynski said he was unsure what the council will do.
Board of Education President Mathew Tencza, after learning the results, said he was unsure of what to make of the results.
“I’m disappointed that so much went into the process and it failed pretty handily,” said Tencza. “I”m optimistic a big part of the town said the Board of Education side was not enough.”
The overall budget was up 2.5 percent from this year’s $83.2 million budget. To account for the increase from last year’s budget, the tax rate was going to increase 2.8 percent, or from 30.81 mills to 31.68. mills
Department heads initially requested $93.2 million before former Town Manager Denise McNair and now interim Town Manager Jack Healy reduced the figure to $90 million.
After hearings involving department heads and members of the council budget subcommittee, which includes all seven members of the Town Council, the budget was slashed to the $85.3 million. The cuts were made in anticipation of a potential $5 million hit from a lack of state funding and increase in town spending for teacher retirement pensions, which comes to $2.4 million, from the governor’s proposed budget. The potential hits from the governor’s budget were not factored into this budget, Kaczynski has said.
The proposed $43 million Board of Education budget represents 50 percent of the overall budget.
The board initially requested $43.9 million, a 4.7 percent or $1.9 million increase from last year, as a status-quo budget, meaning nothing was added or removed from the previous year.
Following two public hearings, in which residents spoke against the initial cuts to the schools, Kaczynski and council budget subcommittee Chairman David Evans met with Superintendent David Erwin, Tencza and education resource committee member Jeffrey Cugno and reallocated $500,000 from the town side to the school board’s side.
Katherine McGeever, a mother of two children at McGee middle school, said she voted against the budget, citing it was too low for the schools. “We need to keep teachers employed,” she said.
The next council Meeting is next Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Town Council Chambers in Town Hall, 240 Kensington Road.
Charles Paullin can be reached at or .