DEEP RIVER— In the lowest referendum turnout yet, voters Thursday approved a total $14.3 million town/school spending plan for 2012-2013 on a 147-46 vote.
A total of 190 voters, and three property owners, turned out at the Deep River Public Libray polling place in the 14 hours of balloting that was held from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Turnout was barely half the total from last year’s budget referendum, when 361 voters turned out to approve the current town budget on a 244-120 vote.
Deep River has voted on the total town spending package by referendum since 2001, a contentious budget year when spending plans were rejected by town meeting vote and referendum. The 14-hour referendum is estimated to cost about $2,000.
The total $14,330,825 spending plan generated little controversy or comment at the annual budget hearing on May 8. The plan includes a $3,509,265 town government budget, a $334,000 capital expenditure plan, and a $5,400,787 appropriation for Deep River Elementary School. The final component of the spending plan, the town’s $4,304,478 share of the Region 4 education budget, was approved by voters of Deep River, Chester, and Essex in an eight-hour referendum on May 8.
The board of finance is expected to approve a property tax rate of 24.68 mills to support the spending package, an increase of four-tenths of a mill from the current 24.28 mill rate. The new rate represents $24.68 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value.
First Selectman Richard Smith had said the board of selectmen would review the turnout for this year’s budget referendum before considering whether to reduce the referendum hours next year to 12-noon to 8 p.m., or send the 2013-2014 budget to a town meeting vote for the first time since 2000.