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Weston budgets pass overwhelmingly

budget_calculatorWhile voting was light at the polls, the 2013-14 town, school, and capital budgets all passed handily.

Of the town’s 6,794 registered voters, 289 votes were cast, representing a 4.2% turnout. This number, however, does not take into account those who are qualified to vote on the budget because they have at least $1,000 worth of assessed property on the town’s grand list but who may not be registered voters.

There were 185 votes cast on Thursday, May 2, at a machine referendum at the Weston Middle School. There were an additional 82 ballots cast on April 24, following the Annual Town Budget Meeting (ATBM), and 22 absentee ballots.

The final budget vote was:

• School budget: 256 Yes, 33 No.

• Town budget: 251 Yes, 38 No.

• Capital budget: 262 Yes, 27 No.

Mill rate decrease

The 2013-14 budgets go into effect July 1, when taxpayers will see a 0.54% decrease in the mill rate, from 24.02 to 23.89.

A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value on the grand list. The mill rate is derived by dividing the town’s grand levy (its debt) by the town’s grand list. The grand list is made up of real estate, personal property and motor vehicle assessments.

At a mill rate of 23.89, a taxpayer with property assessed at $500,000 would pay $11,945 in taxes next year, compared with $12,010 this year.

The school operating budget will be $45,575,418 ($11,774 or 0.03% less than the current year’s budget).

The town operating budget will be $11,713,441 ($398,839 or 3.52% more than the current year).

The combined school and town capital budget will be $1,116,228 (20.37% decrease).

Debt service is $6,554,632 (3.85% decrease).

First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said she was glad residents supported the budgets. “I know we’ll all be happy when the Board of Finance votes for a reduction in the mill rate this week,” she said.

Noting the low voter turnout, Ms. Weinstein said, “I don’t know for sure if there would be a greater turnout for the ATBM and the referendum if the budgets were not so low — I’m certainly not willing to put forward a higher increase just to test that. I do know, though, it’s easy to be complacent when you’re looking at a really low increase, or in this case, a decrease in taxes.”

She acknowledged that while low turnouts can be frustrating and could sometimes feel like “offering people something they don’t necessarily want,” she was “fully supportive of the inclusiveness and transparency of our budget process” and of offering voters every possible chance to participate.

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