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Article Published May 16, 2022

Clinton Approves Budgets by Wide Margins

By Eric O’Connell/

Controversy no longer: Despite the lowest turnout in recent memory Clinton voters overwhelmingly passed the town and education budgets at a referendum on May 11. While the new budget increases spending, the tax rate will not increase.

Voters approved a town budget of $21,876,635 (a $531,088 or 2.49 percent increase) by a vote of 842 for to 284 against and an education budget of $37,789,236 (a $642,220 or 1.73 percent increase) by a margin of 797 for to 328 against.

The total combined proposed budget is $59,665,871 (a $1,173,308 or 2.01 percent increase), from the 2021-’22 budget. The mill rate will be set on Wednesday, May 18.

“Going into the referendum vote, the mill rate was projected to remain unchanged from the current year [29.83]—a zero-percent increase. The projected mill rate will become the approved mill rate,” said Town Manager Karl Kilduff.

This year turnout for the budget was 1,127 voters, or about 11 percent of registered voters. That number is well down from the 1,575 or 17 percent of registered voters who turned out in 2021.

Budget season used to be a big deal in Clinton with referenda annually in the 30 percent range. From 2009 to 2018 Clinton developed a well-earned reputation for having difficulty getting budgets passed. Only once in this time period (2017) did voters pass both budgets at the first referendum. Public hearings used to be contentious with people passionately arguing for or against the proposed budgets and the town would be filled with “vote yes” as well as “vote no” signs.

However, since 2019, those sentiments have mostly disappeared.

Voters passed both budgets at one referendum in 2019 while in 2020 the referendum was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and instead the town was allowed via an executive order to pass a budget without a town-wide vote. In 2021, the voters again approved both budgets at the first referendum, this time by a two-to-one margin. The total number of votes cast was 1,575, which represents a voter turnout of 17 percent of registered voters, well below the usual turnout from years past.

Whereas Town Hall used to see a fairly significant crowd show up to hear the budget results read, this year there was fewer than 10 people present.

Kilduff said that the votes approving the budget were a sign that residents feel the town is on the right track.

“I appreciate the strong public support for the budget that was presented for voter approval. It is a vote of confidence that we are going in the right direction. A great deal of time and effort goes into preparing a reasonable budget plan each year. In some ways were are never done with the budget, as we look for ways to gain efficiencies and seek cost savings throughout the year,” Kilduff said.

“Of course, the budget that was presented comes with the Town Council’s collaboration in setting priorities and budget direction for the year. We have been able to stabilize the town’s finances, tax rate and still address long-term investments in the Clinton,” he continued.