Pearson Elementary School was not too crowded for most of the day during the town's annual budget vote on Saturday, May 29.
Pearson Elementary School was not too crowded for most of the day during the town's annual budget vote on Saturday, May 29.
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WINSTED — It was an extraordinarily low turnout of residents who passed the proposed Fiscal 2021-2022 budget and approved the town to borrow funds for various water department projects on Saturday, May 29.
The vote to pass the proposed fiscal budget was 215 to 20, while residents passed a referendum question for water department improvements by a vote of 214 to 18.
A total of 235 residents voted in this year’s referendum, which is only 2.75 percent of the 6,468 registered voters who were eligible to vote in the referendum.
The Board of Selectmen will now be able to approve the fiscal budget for 2021-2022 at $34,891,000, an estimated $743,000 increase from this year’s town budget.
Despite the increase, the town’s mill rate will remain the same as this year’s mill rate at 33.54.
Meanwhile, the Winchester Water Sewer Commission will now be able to borrow from the Connecticut Department of Public Health Drinking Water State Revolving Fund the sum of $6.2 million for three infrastructure projects.
Projects include the replacement of 4,000 feet of cast iron water mains of small diameters constructed between 1895 and 1954, replacing the decommissioned 1.5-million-gallon water storage tank on Wallens Hill, and the construction of a 500,000-gallon water storage tank located at the Crystal Lake Water Treatment plant located on Route 263.
After the results were read at Pearson School, Mayor Candy Perez said she is happy with the results.
“We’re appreciative of everyone who came out to vote,” Perez said. “We appreciate everyone who has gotten behind the town’s initiative to move the community forward.”
As for the low turnout, Perez said that she believed that the turnout was low because it was the fifth year the town has not had a mill rate increase.
“If you look in the newspapers, all of the votes to decide a budget has had a low turnout,” Mayor Perez said. “I think that when people don’t turn out, in my mind, it means that people are okay with what has been proposed. It is also because we had bad weather today and it’s a holiday weekend.”
When asked, Mayor Perez said that she was not sure if the town would ever change the budget referendum date to a date that is not on Memorial Day weekend.
“Most people wanted the referendum on a Saturday so that property owners could be able to vote,” she said. “This date was recommended by the voting registrars and the finance director. We have a window in the charter that states that we need to have the referendum within 14 days after the second Monday in May. This Saturday was the logical choice. It was up to the voters at the town meeting to decide on the date, it was not a board of selectmen or town manager decision”
When asked if this would be the last year that the town would be able to avoid a mill rate increase, Mayor Perez said she was not sure.
“I cannot predict what is going to happen in the future,” she said. “I cannot predict the assessment value in town. We do have an idea of what is going to happen with expenses and we do know that the expenses will exceed the current budget next year due to contracts. But I cannot say until the whole package is put together.”

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