New Canaan resident Michael Nowacki said on Monday that he has obtained the signatures necessary to file a formal Notice of intention to petition with the Town Clerk, as he pursues a referendum on the fiscal year 2018 budget, unanimously approved two weeks ago.
The signatures themselves—Nowacki said he has 60 total, 10 more than are required for the first step in forcing a referendum vote, as per Section 4 of the Town Charter (see page 11 here)—have yet to be confirmed by the Town Clerk, he said.
“I am righteously indignant on being ignored,” Nowacki said when asked for his reasons for pursuing a referendum vote on next year’s spending plan. Nowacki addressed the town funding bodies multiple times during public hearings on the budget through February and March. Ultimately, the town adopted an operating budget of $148,136,106 for fiscal year 2018, an overall 2.6 percent year-over-year increase (including a 1.6 percent rise for the budget’s major driver, the Board of Education).
It’s very difficult to force a referendum vote, and difficult, too, to garner enough physical votes on a referendum item to make it effective.
Even with the initial 50 signatures needed for the Notice of intent to petition, signatures from 5 percent of the electors of the town then are needed—an estimated 650-plus people—to force the referendum vote itself. For the referendum, a minimum of 15 percent of registered voters must vote to make the referendum viable, with a simple majority to win.
Asked why he’s pursuing the referendum on the budget—Nowacki said he specifically is seeking a reduction of about $4 million in the amount to be raised through taxation—he listed four items he is seeking from the town and school district. Namely, that the town seek alternative revenue sources (such as charging people to access the New Canaan assessor database), finding money in town operations by combining municipal and school district services, finding money in New Canaan Public Schools spending such as by re-examining what he called “longevity bonuses” for educators and reducing the amount of money in bonded capital projects.
“I have got a lot of people who have lined up for signatures, and all I can tell you is I am very determined in this period of time to execute and get the necessary signatures to let the voters decide,” Nowacki said.
Nowacki reiterated that he intends to run for first selectman again this year—he lost by a more than 10-to-1 margin two years ago—and that although his house has been on the market, he’s put down a deposit on an apartment in town in order to maintain resident status. A federal judge last month dismissed a lawsuit that Nowacki had brought against the town.