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Budget Passes at Referendum!

All budgets passed, all programs remain intact.

 

 

The budget passed last night to the joy of some and the dismay of others.  First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker said that it was a great night for Bethel.  "Everyone did a good job.  There was strong support for the school and the town, and we will be able to continue to address the roads and infrastructure."

Of 11,000 voters, 3,000 came out to vote, almost a full third of the town's voters. Knickerbocker said he was very pleased with the strong showing of Bethel residents. 

Superintendent Kevin Smith, Ph.D., who received the news of the budget's passing while in a Board of Education meeting, said, "I am deeply grateful to the residents of Bethel for once again generously supporting our schools. The budget will allow us to continue moving the schools forward on our upward trajectory of success."

Outside, Planning and Zoning's John Lennon was not as certain the budget passing was a good thing.  "We have to learn to make do with less," he said, shaking his head. "We are living in interesting times."

 

Here are the numbers of how residents voted by district:

District Town Budget

Yes No Too High Too Low

Total 1,683 1,343 1,762    702

1 165 113 146 65

2 437 345 449 196

3 673 482 653 267

4 268 323 392 119

5 115 60 98 44

Absentee  25    20 24 11

 

Capital

Yes No 

Total 1913 1090 

1 184    94

2 508   268

3 758   388

4 322   265

5 116   57

Absentee     25  18

 

   Education

Yes No Too High  Too Low

Total 1627 1399 1647 890

1 161 119 130 89

2 434 349 409 243

3 641 509 614 339

4 161 346 390 138

5 122 56 82   67

Absentee   25 20 22   24

 

 

Total Combined

Yes No Too high  Too Low

3310 2742 3409 1592

tiredoftaxes May 18, 2012 at 11:11 AM
I am so confused with the Bethel voters. You pass a 3.5% increase in taxes but when asked if it was too high or too low you vote too high.
Val May 18, 2012 at 11:26 AM
How else do we get our roads fixed?
BResident1 May 18, 2012 at 11:35 AM
Sorry, I'm all for education, but it's ridiculous to see the budget going up so much and hitting the residents pockets with taxes in such a bad economy. There doesn't seem to be any common sense in the town. And for those who didn't vote, DON'T COMPLAIN ABOUT TAXES SINCE YOU DIDN'T VOTE!! Thanks for nothing.
--- May 18, 2012 at 12:05 PM
John Lennon, in the article above, said it best: Outside, Planning and Zoning's John Lennon was not as certain the budget passing was a good thing. "We have to learn to make do with less," he said, shaking his head. "We are living in interesting times." Kevin Smith is happy we can continue to move forward thanks to this money. So if the budget had not passed, would Mr. Smith be dead in the water, unable to advance, and Bethel Schools would wither and die? Hm.
Bill Hillman May 18, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Time to move on, the vote passed and proved the most effective political action committee in town is the BOE-PAC with their proprietary email list, funded with our tax dollars. Current law prohibits what was in those emails and newsletters between the Town meeting and the actual vote. Maybe the law should be changed to prevent taxpayer funded facilities from being used for any political or referenda advocacy, regardless of when. Chances of changing those laws are slim to none. So looking forward, and simply extending this 3.6* tax increase over the next three years: for 2012-13 a homeowner of a 300k home will be paying 7221 and in 2015-16 that same home owner will pay 8030. That assumes only a 3.6% tax increase each year. With renovation discussions for Rockwell and Johnson underway and separate studies for construction of a new police headquarters, along with the very effective lobbying power of the school newsletter; will taxes go up "only" 3.6% in the next couple of years or more? Sooner or later, interest rates will go up, inflation (now at 2.7%) will likely rise, and we will probably be paying a lot more. This seems to be what the people (54% of them) want, that's what the people will get. Congratulations are due to the BOE-PAC with their new "yes" signs (who paid for those by the way), they pulled the vote and won the day. Who needs private PACS when you have the school's FOI-protected email list?
Eric T Gray May 18, 2012 at 12:35 PM
It's sad when less than 1/3 of the voting population shows up and the 1st Selectman says he's very pleased with the strong showing... Just sad, but it says a lot about the man who runs the Bethel show.
Eric T Gray May 18, 2012 at 12:36 PM
I guess it also says that most people don't give a crud about what happens in our town
SmallMinds May 18, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Most people, in fact, do not give a crud enough to get their butts over to one of the polling places within two miles of their homes and cast a ballot. Participation levels are shamefully low. I am glad the budget passed. Everyone got a card in the mail advising them of the vote . I got a robo-call from the PTO and another from the BAC. I saw the signs in front of town hall, police station and firehouses. Only the home-bound citizens without phones or mailboxes were unaware of this vote. The total number of votes was less than the total population of students in Bethel Public Schools. Poor Bill Hillman and Billy Michael have been ranting daily about the "excessive" and "devastating" increase in spending and still could not get 1,400 out of 10,000 voters (14% of registered voters) to vote against this budget. The winning side had less than 17% of registered voters giving the green light to over $60,000,000 in spending. (And who knows how many eligible voters are not even registered?) Homeowners are paying $6,000 or $7,000 a year in taxes to live in a house in Bethel and still they don't bother to participate in the simplest way in the town's fiscal governance. Some states are moving to electronic voting to improve participation rates, decrease fraud and save money. It's an idea whose time has come. Let people vote in person if they want to but also let us vote electronically and by mail. And one more thing: Hooray!
SmallMinds May 18, 2012 at 01:30 PM
http://news.discovery.com/tech/e-voting-technology-election-120103.html
Bill Hillman May 18, 2012 at 01:56 PM
We do agree the turnout could be better, but I don't recall using the adjectives you refer to. I've observed you often misquote and exaggerate. The tax increase is a third more than inflation (3.6% vs 2.7%), and my message was consistent. It's time to cap the tax increases not to exceed inflation. Bethel voters disagree with that. By the way, I recall some ridicule when I stood up at a Town Meeting some 3 or 4 years ago saying that 3 or 4 years from then I expected I's be paying $9,500 in tax and sewer assessments 3 or 4 years hence. Well, it seems I was right. My property tax and sewer + assessments will be between $9,500 and $10,000 next year. Clearly that math isn't enough to get people out to vote, and that's a shame. Each yes vote accounted for over $2,100 in new spending for next year. More voters should have participated in that decision.
Larry Craybas May 18, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Bill to quote you ... "BOE-PAC with their proprietary email list, funded with our tax dollars. Current law prohibits what was in those emails and newsletters between the Town meeting and the actual vote." Everything the BOE and School Administration did was within the law. We spent a lot of energy making certain what was said, who said it, when it was said, and how are messages were sent, before and after the "referendum was set and declared pending" was in compliance with SEEC statute. To suggest otherwise is unfair , erroneous, and frankly unconscionable. Why spread misinformation after the vote? If you are serious, let's start a grass-roots campaign to change the game and get Hartford to deal with bankrupting small towns across Connceticut with funding that is totally reliant on property tax revenue. What we are doing is unsustainable and those of us concerned about educating our children, acknowledge the insanity of this historical practice. Let's change the game!
Frances O'Neill May 18, 2012 at 02:27 PM
I would have liked to have had the chance to vote on the items on the capitol budget individually. Then I could have voted for those I considered appropriate in the current economy and voted against those that I felt were neither urgent nor important.
Bill Hillman May 18, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Larry, we agree, Everything the BOE and School Administration did was within the law. It's also true that the messages of advocacy prior to the Town Meeting were fully within the current law, and that the same messages of advocacy distributed via the school's email system would not have been lawful between the Town meeting and the machine vote (and none were sent). How is that misinformation, it's a 100% accurate statement. What, specifically did I say that indicated otherwise? Here is the consent order from a complaint by a voter against Dr. Chesley last year: http://seec.ct.gov/e2casebase/data/fd/FD_2011_079.pdf What I said was perfectly accurate with no misinformation. "We spent a lot of energy making certain what was said, who said it, when it was said" Those are exactly the considerations made by a Political Action Committee. The taxpayer funded email system should not be used at all for referendum advocacy, and I think the BOE should not act like a PAC; an opinion which implies that I think the present laws need to be changed. Whether the burden is funded via income tax or property tax, it's still out of the voter's pocket. There needs to be a new paradigm how to educate and be effective with the tax funding to do the same.
MBP May 18, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Thank you, Mr. Craybas, for pointing out the elephant in the room - the linking of education funding to property taxes. The shell game of education "reform" in Hartford ignored this idea entirely in favor of robbing public schools to start charters, then tying town's hands when in comes to funding those charter schools. Until the property tax link is addressed, any talk of reform is just a way to shuffle taxpayer money into whomever's outstretched hands happen to be blessed with political favor.
MBP May 18, 2012 at 02:50 PM
I admire your passion for increasing voter turnout, SmallMinds, but evoting is incredibly vulnerable to hacking - http://rt.com/usa/news/hack-voting-system-dc-593/ Heck, I don't even trust voting machines at all, and with good reason - http://www.cs.ucsb.edu/~seclab/projects/voting/ Want to increase voter turnout? Make the second Tuesday in November a national holiday. For referendums in towns like ours hold it on a Saturday. Most countries in Europe hold theirs on Sundays. I don't think going as far as, say, Australia and making voting compulsory would sit well with Americans, but at least give exhausted parents and commuters a better chance at getting to the polls without having to massively rearrange their schedule.
--- May 18, 2012 at 02:51 PM
@Bill Hillman, SmallMInds said: "Poor Bill Hillman and Billy Michael have been ranting daily about the "excessive" and "devastating" increase in spending and still could not get 1,400 out of 10,000 voters (14% of registered voters) to vote against this budget. The winning side had less than 17% of registered voters giving the green light to over $60,000,000 in spending. (And who knows how many eligible voters are not even registered?)" -------- Not, poor Billy and Bill, but poor Bethel! Even in the face of additional taxation, during these hard times, the majority of voters have chosen to acquiesce to it. Simply amazing. Poor Bethel, indeed. This truly is a Blue State, isn't it, and Bethel is truly a Blue Town. Amazing.
Michael Shea May 18, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Well - if you go and vote no then there will be lots of yelling and screaming followed by another vote on a nearly identical budget. It is in fact impossible to significantly reduce spending without defying State and Federal Government mandates. You cannot hire non-union teachers for example. You cannot set local school teaching standards. You cannot expel unruly or violent 17 year olds (they do not get expelled - they get a private tutor). You cannot ignore the ADA. You cannot avoid building a new $10,000,000 police station that we do not need because there are new rules for jail cells etc. Voting seems to be a bit of a nostalgic ritual these days.
Ellen Dages May 18, 2012 at 03:36 PM
I'm one of the 8,000 non-voters because I was in the hospital. I'm sure special circumstances existed with other non-voters, but there remains a need for more collaboration in Bethel operations. Had only 3,000 out of 11,000 students graduated our schools there would be an uproar. Bethel borrowed to paydown debt because their citizens couldn't afford to pay taxes, and we raised taxes again. I'd love to see an analysis of the entire Bethel portfolio to determine how we can strengthen our financial position and broaden the town network.
SmallMinds May 18, 2012 at 04:37 PM
There are dozens of ways to increase voter participation. Don't like e-voting? How about by mail? How about, as suggested above, National Holiday? How about voting on the Saturday and Sunday before election day? How about the Australian way: you pay a $20 fee on your income tax return and when you vote, you get it back? But the sad part is the overwhelming lack of concern and interest. Voting is free. The lines are short and parking is free. You can vote from 6AM to 8PM right near your house. Feeling powerless accounts for some of the low numbers. Inconvenience for some voters accounts for a part of the low numbers but mainly, I think, people just don't care enough to expend the little bit of energy it takes to do it. They just don't think it's worth it. If you don't bother to vote, you get the government (and the mil rate) you deserve.
cilia May 18, 2012 at 06:36 PM
This will be hard for many people, sure our students will be smart but living on the street!
bonnie May 18, 2012 at 06:43 PM
I have not gotten a raise in years, imagine that? BOE, enjoy my money!
Jim Mangi May 18, 2012 at 07:11 PM
We should make the separate Yes/No and Too High/Low votes one vote with three choices: Yes, No-Too High, and No-Too Low. If the referendum were to fail, you would clearly see which way you need to nudge the budget for the next try. With our current polling, if the budget fails, the Too High, Too Low numbers are not accurate. You could have 40% voting Yes and Too Low, 20% voting No and Too Low, and 40% voting No-Too High. What you would see in the results are 40% Yes, 60% No, 60% Too Low, 40% Too High. Those results would make you THINK that to pass, you needed to lower the budget, when in fact, doing so would make MORE people vote NO, not less. Polling should be meaningful. The current method is not.
Gavin May 18, 2012 at 07:47 PM
All I know is that my family is doomed, we can't live where we are as it is. I didn't have SMART boards when I went to school, does thay make me stupid?
Bill Hillman May 18, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Jim, State law dictates the present form of questions, and it's very unlikely that can change. Any question can have only yes or no as choices, and the law allows an advisory too high too low. Nothing the Town can change on its own.
Bill Hillman May 18, 2012 at 07:51 PM
I'm thrilled at the wonderful participation from so many who could have sent letters to the editor, helped to call out the vote and express themselves the only way that really counted. In agreement with @small: "If you don't bother to vote, you get the government (and the mil rate) you deserve."
Brian C May 19, 2012 at 01:52 AM
Matthew Knickerbockers says he is "very pleased with the strong showing of Bethel residents.". Out of 11,000 voters, 3,000 bothered to vote, and of those only 1,683 voted yes. Hardly a strong showing. Nice spin.

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