Right now, voters in Meriden are deciding yes or no on the city budget in an historic vote. It is the first time the city has ever had a budget referendum.
Wednesday’s vote could mean major budget cuts for the Silver City, if enough people vote yes.
Turnout was brisk at the two polling locations at the beginning of the day. Some people even showed up on Tuesday, because that is the usual day for voting, but there is nothing usual about this budget referendum vote. It all began with Mike Carabetta and his reaction to a proposed tax hike
“I’m a single father raising a family, and to see the tax increase go up, it was almost 5% at that point,” Carabetta said.
That works out to approximately $200 a year for the average homeowner. Carabetta found out if he got 2,779 signatures, he could force a referendum.
“The message was easy to get out,” Carabetta said. “The signatures were hard to get because you have to catch up to people, but the taxpayers came together for me.”
The referendum is whether or not to reject the budget, so a “yes” vote means “no” to the existing budget and its tax hike.
“Enough is enough on taxes,” said voter Ray Cox. “I mean, if it’s not the state of Connecticut, or in Meriden right now, we can’t afford it.”
“They’re sick and tired of the city spending so much money,” said voter John Zajac. “Every year the taxes go up. I’m retired, I’m on a fixed income. My end doesn’t go up.”
“This is kind of a wake up call,” voter Leeanne Frisina said. “You can’t just let the city sit and lose residents and lose businesses and pay the bills. We’ve got to find other ways to do that.”
City leaders say budget reductions would mean reductions in city services.
“There’s a lot of different opinions, so it’s hard to tell you which way everybody’s going,” said voter Vicki Lawson. “I’m not sure what this vote’s going to be. I’m hoping it’s going to help us.”
For the referendum to pass, more than 50% of the number of voters from the last municipal election have to approve it. So, as long as there are 4,111 “yes” votes, it passes, no matter how many “no” votes there are.
“If we can continue this steady stream of voters all day, I hope we can do it,” Carabetta said.
Even if this referendum does pass, there is no guarantee what a new budget would look like. The referendum is just an up or down vote. There are no guidelines. It just says that the city has to come up with something new by August 20th.
There are just two places to vote, Maloney High School and Lincoln Middle School. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday.