Teach­ers, roads, schools plans win in bud­get vote

Pro­posed pick­le­ball courts de­feated

The News-Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Rob Ryser

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.


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