BERLIN — Residents rejected the Town Council’s $90.1 million budget proposal in a referendum Tuesday.
Unofficial results have 1,146 voters calling the school budget too low compared to 1,133 responding the budget is too high. Only 254 voted in favor of the Board of Education budget as presented, according to Republican Registrar of Voters Susan Wasik.
Berlin residents vote separately on the education and general government budgets.
“I think the education budget is too low,” said resident Steven Joslyn. “The kids are ultimately the ones who would suffer.”
On the town budget side, 1335 voters felt the proposed spending plan was too high, while 806 called it too low, according to unofficial results.
Both budgets will now return to the Board of Finance, which has 10 days to revise and send them to the Town Council. The council can approve, reduce or reject the proposal before sending it to a second referendum.
The $44.5 million education budget voters considered Tuesday included $1.7 million in cuts by the council and finance board. The proposed $45.6 million general government plan included $2.4 million in cuts by the finance board and council
The corresponding mill rate increase of 1.36 mills would have brought the rate to 33.86 mills under the proposed budgets, a $238 increase in taxes on a home assessed at $175,000.
Board of Education Chairperson Matthew Tencza said he believes Tuesday’s vote reflects unhappiness with the cuts made to the school board’s budget request,.
In response to the cuts, the school board said it is considering cutting athletics, special education and staff positions.
Tencza said it’s too soon to say whether those potential cuts could be restored.
“We need to see what the town will put back into our budget, if anything … before we have those conversations,” he said. “Hopefully the advisory questions are honored.”