PLAINVILLE — Residents approved a 2.7-percent municipal spending increase Tuesday, but rejected a Board of Education budget as being too high.
Town Manager Robert Lee said said town budget passed 409-354, a 55-vote margin. Voters, meanwhile, rejected the education budget 372-384, with 381 of the opponents saying in an advisory question that the budget was too high.
The general government budget of roughly $18 million represents a $484,000 increase over the current fiscal year. The rejected school budget, meanwhile, would have increased school funding by just over $1 million, also a 2.7 percent increase, after trimming it by $221,000 to $38.3 million.
The school budget now returns to the Town Council, which is obligated by the charter to reduce its funding.
The general government and education budgets, if both had been approved, would have required a mill rate increase of 0.88 mills to 34.72 mills. That would have meant a $121 tax increase for the average home assessment of $137,227.
Town Council Chairperson Katherine Pugliese said she would have preferred to avoid the mill rate increase, but the council needed to account for plateauing state aid and the possibility of more than $100,000 that the town might pay if lawmakers accept Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposal for towns to contribute to teacher’s pensions.
“I think people understand what the council’s doing. They understand much of what we’re doing has to do with the state,” she said. “I think it’s the best we could do under the circumstances.”
Resident Lou Frangos, a frequent attendee of the Town Council meetings, agrees with that outlook and voted in favor of the budget, but said he was dismayed to not see more people at the polls regardless of how they intended to vote.
“To be dissatisfied and not do anything about it is … I’ll put it nicely, perplexing,” he said, calling turnout “tragically” low.
Voter turnout was higher than last year, at 768 ballots cast, or 6.6 percent of eligible voters, compared with less than 600 voters last year.
Saying he understands where the town government is coming from with the need for a tax increase, resident James Mullan said still felt there was room to trim more off.
“The town had some tough choices … but I think we need to cut more,” he said, adding that even reducing the increase by 1 percent, which would bring it to a 2 percent increase, would win his vote.
“I understand it had to go up, but if we can’t afford it, we can’t afford it,” he said.