NEWTOWN, Conn. Residents have rejected a budget that included money for extra school security in the wake of the December school shootings, with town leaders suggesting the spending and required tax increases were a hard sell.
Voters on Tuesday turned down the $72 million school budget by 482 votes and rejected the $39 million town government budget by 62 votes. Nearly 4,500 residents voted on the plans, which would have represented an increase of more than 5 percent next fiscal year.
First Selectwoman Patricia Llodra said the killings of 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School had an impact on the vote, the first since the massacre.
"We're very fragile as a community," she said. "We've lost some of our confidence."
Officials had put an extra $770,000 in the school and town budgets to hire extra police officers and unarmed security guards in each of Newtown's public and private schools. The plan was spurred by the Dec. 14 shootings.
Jeff Capeci, chairman of the Legislative Council, said the higher school budget also would have expanded half-day kindergarten to full-day and allowed for the hiring of a new high school administrator and for capital spending and technology.
"I thought it was an incredibly high increase for this economy," Capeci said. "At the end of the day, Newtown voters thought it was too much of an increase."
Llodra called the spending increases substantial.
"It's just beyond the ability of our community to grapple with," she said.
In contrast, the current budget is up by a fraction of 1 percent over the previous year.
According to the Danbury News Times, last year Newtown residents were so divided over the budget that it took five referendums to get it approved.
Newtown's budget troubles are relatively recent and are due to the recession, the weak recovery that followed and an aging population on a fixed income, Llodra said. A revised budget will be presented for a second vote.