Guest Post: A Yes Vote on the Charter, by Donald Libby
On election day the voters in New Gloucester have the opportunity to vote for a town charter. I am encouraging the good people in New Gloucester to vote yes on this important document.
This document I believe puts the control of the finances in the hands of the people. The budget process will start with the Municipal Officers setting the parameters for the upcoming budget. This is important because it is the Municipal Officers who answer to the residents of New Gloucester. There was much discussion at the Charter commission meetings where the budget process should start, and it was agreed that the parameters should start with the Municipal Officers. The Town Manager who is tasked to oversee the day to day operations of the town plus work with the department heads in managing their budgets, will consult with the department heads to develop a budget that will be given to the Municipal Officers for review. At this time, it is important to note that budget is the Municipal Officers budget. The Municipal Officers will review and possibly make changes to the budget upon consultation with the Town Manager. The budget then will be forwarded to the Finance Committee. The Finance committee will review the budget, hold a Public hearing where the good people can come and request changes to a budget item, and then make recommendations to the Municipal Officers. The Municipal officers at that point make a final determination on the budget. The Charter Commission discussed this process extensively and after much discussion the process was agreed to with firm deadlines that was put in place to afford citizens time for review and input.
The next part of the process is the most important part of the process. The budget will be presented to the citizens at an annual town meeting. This was another important item of discussion at the Charter Commission meetings. If the budget were to go to a referendum vote, then the people would be voting on the Municipal Officers budget. At a town meeting there will be a motion and second for a warrant article for a budget amount. The split second that the second is made the budget is no longer the Municipal Officers number but the citizens number to discuss. The citizens can exercise the greatest right we have as Americans and that is their freedom of speech to change the amount in the budget for
a vote. This should not be glossed over, the right to change what you are taxed should remain with the citizens. There is also a provision in the Charter for a confirmation referendum vote for large single expenditure items and ordinances. Now here it is important to note that the citizens can only lower an amount not raise the amount. This was another long discussion at the Commission on this issue where does the right of the people to set their own budget amount and the rights of the people for not having a group raise a large amount on a budget without going thru a process not conflict? It was Commission member Hilton who advocated for a process that would require the Municipal Officers bring a budget back to the people if there was a vote for zero funds. If there was a vote for zero funds because the citizens wanted more funds that message would be load and clear. Problem solved.
In conclusion the charter lays out a process that puts a solid plan for a budget process involving the Municipal Officers, Town Manager, Finance Committee and finally the citizens.
Donald Libby, Former Charter Commission Member
*This is a guest post by Donald Libby. The views expressed are those of Donald Libby, and not endorsed by the New Gloucester GOP. The New Gloucester GOP supports the right of individuals to submit guest blog posts freely, and without censorship. If you are interested in sharing an article, or post please send all submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org