MERIDEN — No one is happy about the looming tax increase, but one resident is actually trying to do something about it.
Michael Carabetta has been busy soliciting signatures for a petition to bring the budget, narrowly adopted by the City Council Monday with a tie-breaking vote from Mayor Kevin Scarpati, to referendum. Carabetta is hoping to prevent the tax increase that is needed for the approved budget.
The $198.1-million spending plan includes a 41.78 mill rate, a 4.66 percent increase over the current fiscal year. For the average city homeowner, that means paying an additional $208 in annual taxes.
”After last year’s spending increase and the proposed spending increase for this year, people are tired of it,” Carabetta said. ”In the past we’ve always said what are we going to do? This year there is something we can do.”
Carabetta needs 2,733 signatures, 10 percent of registered voters, by 4 p.m. on June 20 to force a referendum vote on the budget. If Carabetta is able to gather enough signatures, a referendum would need to occur within 30 days.
Acting City Manager Ken Morgan previously said a referendum could cost the city up to $30,000 and doubted it would result in much change to the budget.
Carabetta picked up copies of the petition Tuesday at City Hall and has spent two days soliciting signatures from residents at Hubbard Park, Baldwin Pond and Maloney’s Pub. He has already gathered well over 100 signatures and said so far residents have shown nothing but “overwhelming support.”
“In meeting all of these people and talking about how hard this is for them…I have heard so many heartbreaking stories about how people are stuck here or many are leaving, ‘for sale’ signs up on their house because it’s too much,” Carabetta said.
Helping Carabetta has been resident Sharon Milano, who said people have been eager to get involved in the effort.
“It’s been amazing. People are just coming out of the woodwork,” Milano said. “Everyone is taking sheets and going and canvassing their own neighborhoods.”
Among those who have signed is Republican Councilor Dan Brunet, who said he supported the petition due to his displeasure in the budget.
"I appreciate their effort and I believe in their cause," Brunet said. "I think it's an opportunity for the public to have a vote on the situation, not just merely city councilors.”
However, Democrat David Lowell, who helms the Council’s Majority Party, said he would not be signing.
“I respect what he’s doing,” Lowell said. “I believe in the process we went through… Based on what I know, I think the process has worked as it was intended to work.”
Democrat Larue Graham, who voted against the proposed budget, said he would also not be giving his signature.
“I feel like the budget was already discussed,” Graham said. “ We vetted the budget fairly. We did cut some parts. Is it to the level that I would want? No, it isn’t, but as a Council we made a decision, so I have to move on.”
Those hoping to learn more about the petition or get involved can email Carabetta at firstname.lastname@example.org or join the Facebook Group, “Meriden 2018 People Against Budget Increase.”