Dec. 14 or no Dec. 14, many of the town’s residents just thought the proposed 2013-2014 budget was too high, and they made their feelings known Tuesday, rejecting both sides of the proposed $111.15 million budget.
It would have amounted to a 4.71 percent increase.
The Board of Education budget was separated from the town budget as a result of charter revision passed last November in the wake of last year’s bruising process, when the combined budget finally was approved on the fifth try.
Parents’ widespread desire for better security in the wake of the Dec. 14 mass shootings that killed 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School was the overriding issue throughout the process leading up to the vote.
But none of that prevented voters from rejecting the proposal, kicking the education budget to the curb by a 482-vote margin, 1,994 in favor versus 2,476 opposed.
Voters rejected the town budget by a 66-vote margin, 2,207 in favor versus 2,273 opposed.
Both budgets now go back to the Legislative Council for revisions.
In the advisory questions about whether each budget was too low, voters in both cases overwhelmingly said the budgets were not too low.
The vote on the town budget was 299 to 3,926. The vote on the education budget was 605 to 3,650.
“I don’t know how to interpret that,” a clearly disappointed First Selectwoman Patricia Llodra said after the totals were announced.
“The voters have spoken. The budget needs to be adjusted. ... So we’ll adjust the budget.”
Llodra said her sense from the additional advisory questions was that “it would seem that the (Board of Selectmen) budget is about right.
With regard to specifics, “I don’t know what we’re going to do,” she said.
Board of Education Chairwoman Debbie Leidlein said the school board would do its best to come up with appropriate recommendations for the Legislative Council.
“I’m disappointed,” Leidlein said. “I think the voters have overwhelmingly answered the questions that they think the budgets are too high.”
She expressed the wish that “hopefully we can make some incremental reductions, rather than drastic cutbacks as in past years.”
During last year’s budget process, the education budget was cut by an additional $1 million, Leidlein said.
But “first of all, we have to give the Legislative Council some answers going forward. ... We have to keep security and mental health top priorities, so we will do that.”
But some other things will have to be cut, Leidlein said.
Legislative Council member Phil Carroll, R-3, also was surprised.