COVENTRY — Voters in Coventry have once again rejected the Fiscal Year 2021 budget presented to them, with hundreds more turning out for this week’s referendum than for the last.
The proposed $110 million budget was rejected in each of the five districts, with a total of 992 residents casting votes in favor and 1,927 residents voting no.
While more residents turned out for Thursday’s referendum than for the first one in July, which saw only 2,034 votes cast, it was still only a small fraction of Coventry’s some 25,000 registered voters.
After voters rejected the first proposed budget, a level-funded spending plan that called for drastic cuts on both the school and municipal sides, a new budget was approved at the end of last month by the majority of the council that would have raised the tax levy by 3.8 percent — just shy of the 4 percent cap on levy increases.
According to the town charter, when voters fail to adopt a budget before the start of the fiscal year, then the amount approved in the previous year “shall be deemed adopted… on a month-to-month basis” until a budget is finally approved.
The town has been operating since the start of the 2021 fiscal year in July on its 2020 budget, with each department given access to one-twelfth of last year's budget each month.
The budget rejected Thursday would have given the school district the $1.8 million increase it had requested to maintain its daily, non-pandemic related operations.
The budget would also have given more funding to the public works and parks and recreation departments, which both have seen drastic reductions as a result of level funding, and would have covered salaries to bring four new positions on the town side that interim town manager Ed Warzycha has said are much needed.
The proposed budget having been rejected, the town will continue to operate under last year’s budget.
“The town will continue to operate, bills will be paid, employees will continue to receive paychecks, town services will continue, debt services will be met,” Warzycha said in an email Friday. “In short, the town will operate the way it always has.”
And if necessary, Warzycha said, the town will continue operating on last year’s budget through the remainder of the fiscal year.
“Every year we operate and function within the limitations that the citizen approved (or rejected) budget provides,” he said. “We will continue to [do] the same for the rest of this fiscal year if needed.”