NEWBURY — The third time apparently was not a charm for Newbury officials who saw a proposed tax hike rejected at the polls Tuesday by just 263 votes in an election that saw 86 percent of voters turning out.
But proponents of the proposed $293,000 override vowed to keep seeking ways to rectify what they say is a dangerously inadequate amount of funding for public safety services in town.
It was the third time officials had sought an override to restore services cut from the budget over the past few years.
Yesterday, Selectman Michael Bulgaris said the election results were disappointing, but not entirely unexpected. He said many taxpayers are “up against it” and “a lot of people are struggling to keep their homes.”
Still, he said he sees a silver lining of sorts in the fact that turnout for the election was considerably higher than in May, when an identical tax hike was defeated by just 50 votes. After that election, many residents contacted town officials to say they were unaware an override had been on the ballot.
A larger tax hike — for $950,000 — was rejected by 200 votes last year.
According to the results posted by Town Clerk Leslie Haley on the town website, Tuesday’s override question was defeated by a vote of 2,298 to 2,035. Of the voters who cast ballots Tuesday, 139 opted not to vote on the question. If approved, the override would have increased taxes by $82 annually on the average home valued at $400,000.
“At least we got the word out and people were informed. No one can say, ‘Why didn’t you tell us’ this time,” Bulgaris said.
Of the town’s 5,209 registered voters, 4,472 went to the polls Tuesday. A record number, 510, of absentee ballots was cast and Haley said the high volume of votes that required hand counting slowed down her team’s ability to finalize vote counts once the polls closed. Results were announced at 10:35 p.m., but Haley revised some numbers yesterday after resolving discrepancies in vote totals.