Orange residents approve $68M budget

Orange First Selectman James Zeoli.

Orange First Selectman James Zeoli.

ORANGE >> Town voters this week overwhelmingly approved a $68 million budget for fiscal year 2017-18, but First Selectman James Zeoli said he’s still concerned about state budget cuts that will affect cities and towns throughout the state.

Residents voted 1,088 to 201 in favor of the budget proposal approved by the Board of Finance. The $68 million budget includes costs for the Board of Education and Amity Regional High School.

“That’s wonderful that we were able to get enough people out to get a fair test of the community and that they were supportive of the budget by the administration and the Board of Finance,” Zeoli said.

He said state contributions are still a “complete unknown,” and Orange, like other municipalities, will need to makeup up probable cuts. The state budget has not been set, but state leaders have said there is a huge deficit and municipalities will be among those to feel the pinch. “As the government piles more debt on municipalities, it will definitely have an impact on services,” Zeoli said. “That’s scary.”

Zeoli said that while Orange doesn’t get as much state aid as other lower income districts, the pinch will be felt in education and special education.

There were also five questions on the ballot related to revising the charter, including to change the terms of the First Selectman, Board of Selectmen, Tax Collector, Town Clerk, Registrar of Voters and constables to four years from two years. The thinking, as expressed in Board of Selectmen suggestions, is that each job requires training and a learning curve, so four year terms would benefit townspeople.

Each received a strong popular vote of “yes,” but for the changes to be made, 15 percent of registered voters must vote, but that fell short.

Zeoli said 1,350 voted, but 1,590 needed to vote to make the 15 percent. He said Town Attorney Vincent Marino is looking into when the questions can be reintroduced.

Other charter revision proposals included:

• Modify the definition of a quorum of qualified taxpayers at a town meeting from 100 to those present.

• Modify the need for town meeting action for the purchase and sale of real estate of the town with a value of $500,000 or more.

• Delete the requirement that all ordinances be published in their entirety following passage and only require a publication of a notice of passage.