Voters say no, but budget still passes

A majority of residents making comment at last Tuesday’s Annual Town Meeting spoke out against the budget, and the majority of voters on Tuesday and Saturday voted against the budget.
But the $124.2-million plan still passed because fewer than 15% of voters turned out to make their voices heard.
While a budget passing by default is not uncommon in Wilton’s referendum history, this vote deviated from the norm.
Fifty-three percent, or 679 votes, went against the budget, while 602 were cast in favor.
With 1,294 votes cast in total — including nine “no, too low” votes and a number of voters who placed a ballot but did not vote on the budget — the total percentage of eligible voters taking part was only 11.5%. In Wilton, when fewer than 15% of voters turn out for a referendum the budget passes automatically.
The schools budget for fiscal year 2016 will be approximately $80 million and the municipal budget will be approximately $32 million.
The capital line items included in the budget vote — repaving parking lots at Middlebrook and the high school ($400,000), fixing the HVAC system at Middlebrook ($500,000), and funding a study of the North Wilton fire station ($90,000) — all passed.
Capital line items are not subject to the 15% minimum voter requirement.
“The budget passed and I’m very pleased with that, because that’s the most important thing,” said First Selectman Bill Brennan by phone Tuesday. “I’m disappointed we only got 11% of residents who actually voted.
“It’s very frustrating that 89% did not vote. I’m disappointed with the turnout.”
He said the town did all it could to get out the vote, but it didn’t seem to be enough.
“We had stories in the press, postings on the town website, signs around town, postings on the schools’ websites. We had something every place we could get publicity,” he said.
Regardless of the budget passing by default in this case, Brennan also said he did not believe the minimum voter requirement should be changed.
He cited a recent incident in Weston, where only 4% of the town voted and the school budget was voted down, as reason to keep the minimum requirement.
“What happened in Weston was, there was a group dissatisfied with the school budget, only 47 people voted against the schools budget and it was still not approved. Forty-seven people basically kidnapped the budget.
“They’re very disappointed over there and I think they wish they had the 15% requirement. It prevents a small group from kidnapping the budget.”