COVENTRY — After rejecting the first Fiscal Year 2023 municipal budget proposed to them, voters in Coventry have given approval to an alternate budget.
The $114 million budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 was passed during an all-day referendum Thursday by a margin of 1,539 to 1,216, with residents turning out to vote at nearly twice the rate that they did during the first referendum on May 26.
The Coventry Town Council is pleased that residents were willing to support this budget, Town Council President Ann Dickson said Friday.
“I appreciate the support the town has given us,” Dickson said in an email.
After voters’ rejection of its original proposed budget, a $114.4 million spending plan that would have resulted in a 2.75 percent increase to the tax levy, the council got to work making cuts with the goal of adopting a new budget that voters would approve of.
Councilors were able to shave around $336,000 from their original budget largely by lowering raises that had been proposed for department directors, cutting one proposed clerk position, and reducing several line items that could instead be covered by pandemic relief funds.
The alternate budget that councilors came up with, and that voters ultimately approved, includes a 2.3 percent tax levy increase and will result in a residential tax rate of $19.57 per $1,000 of valuation, compared to $19.40 in 2022.
In addition to restoring parks and recreation funding to pre-pandemic levels, the budget allocates $955,000 for capital improvements and sets aside $234,148 for contingency.
The budget also provides the school district with the 2.86 percent local appropriation increase that it had requested. With that, Coventry Public Schools will be able to maintain all sports and activities, invest $1.2 million in facilities and make around $900,000 in necessary safety improvements.
“There is value for all residents with money budgeted for every department in our town,” Dickson said of the budget.
Local officials made an effort this time around to encourage greater participation in the vote, after only 1,536 of Coventry’s approximately 26,000 registered voters came out for the first referendum two months ago.
“The reason the Council voted to have another referendum was that the community told us that they did not know about the referendum when we voted the first time,” Dickson said.
Based on that feedback, Dickson said, she worked alongside her fellow councilors, the town manager, school administrators and school committee members to develop a plan to “get out the vote.”
“All items on our task list were completed,” she said. “Council members were on [the local] classic rock radio station, used social media, and were active in a number of local activities.”
Robocalls were also made to residents, she said, although some said the calls went out too early.
“We do apologize to those people who were upset with us,” she said, “but we needed to do everything we could to get out the vote.”
With 2,755 residents participating in Thursday's referendum — more than 1,200 more than voted in May — those efforts seem to have paid off.
In District 1, 312 residents voted for the budget, while 331 opposed it; District 2 saw 427 voters approve the budget, and 247 rejected it; in District 3, 253 voted for the budget and 192 voted against it; 231 residents of District 4 approved, and 186 opposed; and in District 5, 316 residents voted for the budget and 260 turned it down.