BERLIN - Voters rejected the $44.4 million general government and $43.6 education budgets at a second referendum Tuesday.
With 12.6 percent of eligible voters casting ballots, 1,110 voted against the general government budget and 633 for it. On the education side, 1,097 voted against and 633 in favor.
In response to advisory questions, 1,061 said the general government budget was too high, 102 too low. On the education budget, the result was 1,018 too high and 138 too low.
“It’s a sad day,” Board of Finance Sam Lomaglio said after learning the outcome.
The finance board will now work toward budgets that will not increase the town’s property tax rate. Finance Director Kevin Delaney said $2.2 million in additional cuts or gains in revenue will be needed.
Pool, library and other town services could see cutbacks or elimination and garbage may no longer be picked up by the town, he said, but no agencies related to public safety - including the police and public works departments - would be affected.
The budgets voted on Tuesday represented would have increased the tax rate by 0.95 mills, or 3 percent. The budgets rejected on April 24 by 16.9 percent of eligible voters would have increased taxes by 5 percent.
After the April 24 rejection, $1 million was cut from the general government budget, but nothing was cut from the school budget.
The education budget was a responsible proposal, Lomaglio said.
Following finance board recommendations, the council cut an additional $225,000 from the general government side and $250,000 from the education side.
More cuts could be made to the general government side, Mayor Mark Kaczynski said.
Council Democrats opposed any added cuts from either budget.
“It is what it is,” said Kaczynski, of the voting results. “Nobody wants to pay more taxes.”
He wanted to look at the budget more closely and discuss with councilors what to do, but there isn’t much room on town operations to cut, Kaczynski said.
“This could be absolutely disastrous for the Berlin school system,” said school board President Matt Tencza.
Eliminating middle school, freshman and junior varsity sports, the special education Effective School Solutions program, advanced placement courses, music and art at the elementary schools and extracurricular activities at the high school were all in play with the council’s last cut and still are, he said.
Imposition of pay-to-play sports, student parking fees and larger class sizes as a result of teacher reductions were also part of those possible changes, and more could happen as a result of this latest stand by the public against taxes.
Tencza said the low turnout disappointed him and that the school board is waiting to see what the finance board and council do to the budgets.
The finance board met Wednesday night to begin discussing their changes, which will be finalized by the council, or by a combined council and finance board if the council rejects the revised budgets.
Lomaglio said a public hearing on the budgets will be held next week.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.