Monroe's $78.6 million town budget proposal passed by 30 votes Tuesday. Monroe is known for its history of drawn out budget battles, but this is the second year in a row that a spending plan was adopted on the first referendum.
"I would like to thank the people of Monroe for their confidence and trust in what this administration is achieving," First Selectman Steve Vavrek said. "Two straight years of our budget passing the first time is historic. This can only be achieved when you have town officials listening and feeling the pulse of the whole community."
The budget passed by a vote of 1,584 to 1,554, according to the unofficial results.
However, only 24.6 percent of the town's 12,762 registered voters participated in the referendum, compared to just over 29 percent last year, according to the Registrars of Voters.
Inside the Town Clerk's Office of Monroe Town Hall Tuesday night, officials working there talked about the turnout.
"That's the lowest percentage that I can remember," said Susan Koneff, the Democratic Registrar of Voters. "I've been here for 35 years and have been watching the final numbers for most of those years."
Vavrek said, "The voter turnout is what it is. There are people who don't exercise their right to vote — and I wish more would."
"This is the least contentious budget I have seen in my 20-plus years here," he added. "It's a good budget."
The $78.6 million budget proposal includes $51,434,739 for education, $19,142,174 in municipal spending and $5,586,028 for debt service. It represents a 2.1 percent spending and 1.63 percent mill rate increase over the current operating budget.
If voters approve the proposal, the mill rate would increase from 28.79 to 29.26 mills. Individual tax bills are calculated by multiplying the assessed property value by the mill rate then dividing it by 1,000.
Democratic Town Committee Chairman Nick Kapoor had waited in the Town Clerk's Office for the referendum results to come in.
"I'm disappointed by the low turnout," he said. "It was closer than I thought it would be. I think the unofficial numbers show there's still a portion of people that weren't happy with this budget."
Kapoor said he was happy to see funding for a paramedic service for the Monroe Volunteer Emergency Medical Service in the 2012-13 budget, as well as "one of the lowest mill rate increases we've seen in the past few years."
He expressed his gratitude to town officials and board members who "put in hundreds if not thousands of hours into this budget."