Teachers, roads, schools plans win in budget vote
Proposed pickleball courts defeated
NEWTOWN — Tuesday was a good night for teachers’ raises, road improvements and keeping school buildings heated, as voters approved next year’s $120 million budget and three separate spending propositions.
It was not a good night for pickleball: Newtown voters overwhelmingly rejected a $290,000 proposition on Tuesday night’s annual budget referendum to build courts for the popular tennis-like paddle game.
First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said he would have preferred to see a stronger turnout for the referendum — only
2,880 of the town’s
17,500 voters cast ballots.
“While I was disappointed by the voter turnout yesterday, I was pleased with the outcome and by the margin the municipal budget was approved,” Rosenthal said. “I am pleased that the taxpayers agreed with our spending plan.”
Voters passed a $120 million budget for 2019-20
that carries a tax rate of 1.5 percent.
The budget, which includes $42 million for town expenses and $78 million for school expenses, carries a mill rate of 34.77 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
A Newtown resident with a home assessed at the town average of $260,000 would pay $9,040 next year, or $140 more.
The spending increase in the school budget includes raises for teachers and administrators, and $650,000 in additional spending for special education and pupil personnel. The school budget also calls for adding the equivalent of six new teachers and administrators, and reducing a similar amount of staff at the high school and the intermediate school, where enrollment continues to drop.
Voters passed these resolutions: ⏩ $780,000 for lighting and a new boiler at Hawley School
⏩ $1 million to improve town roads
⏩ $2.7 million for lighting and boiler replacement at Newtown High School
The pickleball proposition was the only ballot item to fail, getting only 700 votes and more than 2,100 “no” votes.
The game is gaining popularity here and across the country — especially with the retirement-aged.
Rosenthal had originally budgeted money for four new pickleball courts to be spent two years from now as part of the town’s longterm capital improvement plan.
But an anonymous donor offered the town $25,000 to go toward building the courts as early as this year. The town’s Legislative Council liked the deal, although Rosenthal still believed there were more pressing matters of heat for schools and paving for roads to be funded first.
The compromise was to put the pickleball proposition on the budget ballot for voters to decide.
On Wednesday Rosenthal said it was important to encourage more Newtowners to vote.
“I will continue to work to find ways to engage the public in hopes of driving better voter turnout in the future,” he said.