A Few Voices Speak Loudly For Newtown
The voters have spoken — the few who bothered to come out on April 23, a pleasant referendum day. With a turnout of 17 percent, smaller than First Selectman Dan Rosenthal had hoped, Newtown residents passed the municipal budget of $42,179,503. The education budget, at $78,104,410 was well-received, providing Newtown schools with funds to continue providing our students a solid education.
What voters did not entirely agree upon was how to appropriate other money via the four referendum questions posed.
The community recognized the value in replacing aging boilers and retrofitting lighting at Hawley Elementary School and Newtown High School as well as appropriation of $1 million to continue repairs to some of the 300-plus miles of Newtown roads.
Replacing the boilers and upgrades to LED lighting at the two schools will have the long term benefit of lowering costs and supporting environmental health for these two schools.
That roads are sorely in need of TLC cannot be argued by anyone who drives the many pothole-pocked streets with crumbling curbs. Funding that work is not only an aesthetic improvement to Newtown, but one of safety, as well.
Spending more than a quarter of a million dollars for four new pickleballs courts failed to garner voters’ favor. The enthusiasts of this relatively new sport are most likely crestfallen at the lack of support. Fans must now find alternative means of paying for courts, if they care to pursue it.
There will always be those disappointed by the outcomes. Proponents of the municipal budget put forth more convincing information leading to the passage of this portion of the budget than did opponents. Those hoping to see improvements to student outcomes promised by this year’s education budget were buoyed by those voting to support the added costs. Boards of Selectmen, Finance, and the Legislative Council, Board of Education members, and the Superintendent have produced a budget that will not adversely affect students or the town.
The annual referendum is an opportunity for residents to peg issues of import, how tax money is spent, and help town officials better understand in which directions to point the town. When more than 80 percent of registered voters opt out, only a small population determines how millions of dollars will be spent. Is shirking the voting privilege a sign of an inconvenient, anachronistic weekday vote, or one of resignation? This reasons behind a consistently poor turnout must be parsed for future referendums and elections.
While it is vital that voters speak until they are heard, it is satisfying to have the budget determined with just one referendum, avoiding added costs to the town. Voters’ voices this year tell officials that they have faith in them and believe they are presenting a budget that is in the best interest of the majority of Newtown’s residents. Newtown moves forward now on the word of citizens who took the time to weigh the various facts and listen to the many opinions concerning this year’s budgets — and who took the few minutes out of Tuesday to vote.
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