Reflecting on the Referendums

Voters Approve Budgets for Regional School Districts 13 and 17—A Look at Who Voted, Who Didn’t, and Why


Local election officials did a lot of sitting, a whole lot of knitting, and even a little napping during the 14 hours they manned the polls yesterday.

Durham had anticipated a larger than usual voter turnout for the Referendum on Regional School District 13’s $35,981,819 budget for 2012-2013, in part because it was higher than last fiscal year and includes funding for a hotly-debated all-day Kindergarten program. In the end, the town didn’t need the extra ballots.

“It’s a little bit lower than expected,” said Durham Moderator Louis Battipaglia of the turnout.

“It was very slow,” added Durham Registrar of Voters Pamela Lucashu.

If things were slow at Korn School in Durham, where 1,068 people voted, there was even less action in Middlefield, where just 575 people, (18 percent of eligible voters) turned out to cast ballots at the Community Center. 

“There was quite a period of time when there was nobody,” said Middlefield Moderator Barbara Rowe.

It was the same story in Killingworth, which saw only a 10.6 percent turnout for the Referendum on Regional School District 17’s $38,894,732 budget. Three or four people standing in line to vote at Killingworth Elementary School qualified as a “rush,” said Moderator Rick Albrecht, and that only happened in the final couple of hours and when people arrived for the school’s book sale.   

Poll workers said that many people complained about a lack of publicity for the Referendums but they also theorized that the rain and the fact that Middlefield and Killingworth’s share of their respective school district budgets went down this year may have been contributing factors.

“I never understand why the turnout is that low on a budget that is this big that impacts everyone in both towns,” said Regional School District 13 Superintendent Susan Viccaro of the turnout in Durham and Middlefield. “I don’t even attempt to explain it.

"We start the budget process, really, in January and it moves forward into the Referendum in May. The entire month of March, there are four weeks the board spends [on the budget]. I feel there are many articles on Patch and in Town Times," she said. "I’m always surprised when people say they don’t know what’s happening.”

Who Was For It, Who Was Against It?

That both school districts’ budgets passed the first time, however, is worth noting. Last year, it took two referendums to pass the Regional School District 13 budget. In Killingworth, Albrecht recalled it once took 11 referendums before voters approved the Regional School District 17 budget.

In this referendum, however, Killingworth definitely was the deciding factor, voting 287 to 167 in favor. In Haddam, the budget barely squeaked by in a close 385 to 379 vote.

“There’s a general grousing about spending on public schools,” said Killingworth resident Michael Dove, who has a 12-year-old in 6th grade in Haddam-Killingworth Middle School. “The middle school is a wonderful school. I have a special needs kid and there’s fantastic support from the school. I’m a believer in public education. I think every dollar we spend is an investment. It comes back many times over.”

In Middlefield, by contrast, voters were much less enthusiastic. They voted 316 to 259 against approving Regional School District 13’s budget. Ultimately, however, they were outnumbered by Durham’s 606 to 462 vote in favor of passing it.

"That actually has been pretty typical. Middlefield has voted the budget down and Durham has carried it in previous years, so that’s not an surprising trend," said Viccaro.

You won’t find everyone in Middlefield complaining about the result, though.

“There’s a value added by having such a great school system and we know it,” said Middlefield First Selectman Jon A. Brayshaw. “The parents are grateful—and a great school system costs money.”

If the Referendum was a snooze for some, last night’s vote to pass the budget has certainly invigorated Viccaro.

“I am very pleased,” she said. “It is very exciting. I get to go in tomorrow and post some kindergarten positions and I will regroup with the administrative team and the Board of Education, and we will move forward!”

Just my opinion May 09, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Maybe just maybe if there was more information about when the referendum was being held then more people would have voted. I can't tell you how many people had no idea until it was too late. District 13 is famous for this.
Donna May 09, 2012 at 01:47 PM
There was a vote in Middlefield yesterday. No publicity!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Middlefield voters don't bother Durham has twice the number of voters than Middlefield
Fred May 09, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Interesting to read some of the comments. Although I live in Killingworth it was interesting to read of Superintendent Viccaro's comments. Despite her not understanding I can say this. The Patch helps me with some news but I was totally unaware that there was a vote yesterday so I missed it. Killingworth still has a huge information gap.....we get some news in the weekly paper we all get for free but it is mostly Madison news and by the time we get it.....most of the stuff in there has already happened. This Patch does help but I totally missed any news you might have posted about the referendum being yesterday in Kilingworth. I check the Killingworth Today website periodically when an article is linked on Facebook but it is not an everyday habit.
Middlefield Resident May 09, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Really. There was a flyer in the mail and an article in Town Times. Also plenty of signs around town indicating there was a vote yesterday. Many just don't vote 1st time around since it usually fails at least once. If you are interested enough you will know when to vote and do so.
Diane St John May 09, 2012 at 03:43 PM
I have been very aware there was a vote scheduled yesterday for many weeks. I wrote it on my calendar weeks ago. I think it was very well publicized and have been reminded it was coming several times by theTown Times, the road signs, facebook and patch. I have to be honest here-I planned on voting after work but worked a thirteen hour day yesterday so I did not make it there! And isn't there a vote on the budget every May here?
Michael Hayes (Editor) May 09, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Might I add that there were no fewer than 20 articles in Patch that referenced the May 8 referendum.
John Corona May 09, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Jayne Keedle-Please see my email to you in answer to your question.
Durham Resident May 09, 2012 at 04:23 PM
This is by Design - This is also why Susan Vicarro is so pleased. The Administration has an avenue to giving notice to the parents through their children. Citizens outside the school umbrella, like myself, do not. I stay on top of when all referendum voting occurs and I have to say it could have gone either way if I would have missed it.
Big K May 09, 2012 at 04:30 PM
I agree with you. I had talked with many voters and they either forgot or weren't aware the Referendum
Brigid May 09, 2012 at 07:40 PM
I read about it in three newspapers and two on-line papers. And in case I forgot, there were signs all over the place yesterday. It is not the government's job to hold our hands and lead us to the polls. Also, if you didn't know about the vote there's a good chance you also did not know the details of the budget. Perhaps its best that you did not vote since you would have been unable to make an informed decision.
Durham Resident May 09, 2012 at 08:35 PM
No, but it is the government’s job to clearly indicate to the public when and where a vote is to take place and not just do the bare minimum (and even less than that) to inform its citizens. In that service they have done a poor job and I give them a C grade. The Town Times buries it in some obscure area; the signs are hardly readable from the road; the Durham web site doesn't have it on its front page (it should be a write in your face for a full week). I just recently heard of this Patch site so I am sure not many people are aware of it. Also why doesn’t the Town Green have a banner over it Historical Sign indicating a week ahead of when and where to vote - sounds pretty easy to do? Like I said it is by design.
Mr.BIG May 09, 2012 at 09:36 PM
It is a sad day in our small town today cause thew people of Killingworth all have something to say about spending in the school and town budgets but fail to exercise their right to vote how they feel.While foreign countries try to gain freedom of speech and democracy, where they have a right to vote on topics that will help them shape the way they will live, we take it for granted that things will go our way without exercising that right that so many others are fighting for. SHAME on us. I hope in the future that we all participate in the future of our town as well as others and stop blowing off our god given right to mold the future of Killingworth. Mr.BIG
Brigid May 09, 2012 at 11:47 PM
Bare minimum? There have been signs all over town for over a week, including a large sign on the town green. I am actually overdue for an eye exam and had no trouble reading any of them. Short of calling each voter in town personally, I don't know what else the town was supposed to do. Citizenship 101: Take it upon yourself to become an informed citizen. No one is hiding anything.
Brigid May 09, 2012 at 11:49 PM
PS: I have very liberal political views and expect a lot from my government. Holding my hand and making sure I get to the polls is not one of them.
Rambo May 10, 2012 at 02:58 AM
I'd like to ask the State of Connecticut where the lottery money and casino money really goes too. I thought they were suppose to help off set our school budgets. On the budget for Reg. 13. I want to know how much money is given to Reg. 13 from the state The state is currently working on education reform. What is that going to do to our taxes and the school budget in order for our students to meet those goals? We elect our representatives to represent us and look out for our best interest. That is not happening. They just keep taking from the people who can no longer pay any more in taxes. The school budget is where most of our taxes go to. Some of us can just no longer pay any more taxes as the cost of everything has gone up but our wages have not kept up with the other increases. Their was a comment about seniors. If you retired 10 to 20 year ago on Social security you receive about $600 to $900 a mouth if that, Picture how you live on that and forget your savings is gone. Please don't put down the seniors they have every right to live in Durham and Middlefield , don't forget your going to be old too . And the seniors are people who have lived in this town for years. They are not the families that move in to educate their kids in what is suppose to be one of the better districts in the state then move out when their kids have graduated because they do not want to pay the taxes. But the seniors have stayed in a town they love..
Brigid May 10, 2012 at 05:16 AM
I don't know anything about the lottery and how it is supposed to help support education. In fact, finance is my biggest weakness. But I do know that the seniors living in town once had children who received the benefits of education in this town. They and many others younger than them also struggle. My children went through the school system here and also received those benefits. I still live here though my children are grown, and I do not object to helping foot the bill for today's students. I've heard this meme before about people moving in for the education system and then moving out when their kids graduate, but I have not seen it happen much. Most of the parents I knew when my kids were growing up still live here. I don't particularly object to anything you said and I'm not trying to start an argument. My point is simply to add to the conversation. Thanks.
Rambo May 10, 2012 at 11:18 AM
All I am going to say Google and look around you see a lot info out there, People don't realize how much info. look it up. You will be surprise. Even the rating all the school in Connecticut. PDY I know what you mean I live here all my life all so, we all went the school here, I went to school in town. wasn't together than. I had talk to other some (not all) parent are here temporary just get my kids to good school and leave.


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