By: Maria Moore
At this morning’s Board of Selectmen’s Special Meeting the agenda was limited to one item: the budget. The items on the agenda were:
- Set time, date, manner of Annual Budget Meeting
- Remove Item Number 1 from the call of the Annual Budget Meeting
- Set time, date, manner of Budget Referendum
In under 10 minutes the meeting was concluded. With Tom Klebart away, First Selectman Dan Jerram and Bruce Gresczyk disposed of the three agenda items as follows:
- They set the time of the Annual Budget Meeting for Tuesday, April 26 at 7:00 p.m. in the Senior Center at Town Hall;
- They then removed from the agenda of the Annual Budget Meeting Item # 1 which states: “To consider and act upon the Town Budget recommended by the Board of Finance for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2011.”
- They set the time, date and manner of the Budget Referendum: the Budget Referendum is to be held on May 3, 2011, between 6:00 a.m and 8:00 p.m. at New Hartford Town Hall for District # 1 voters and at South End Fire House for District # 2 voters.
The Notice of the Annual Budget Meeting and the Notice of the Referendum is posted below.
Before removing Item # 1 from the Annual Budget Meeting, First Selectman Dan Jerram said that he had spoken with the town’s attorney regarding our reporter’s and her husband’s letter asking to return to being able to consider the budget at the Annual Budget Meeting, as Item # 1 provides. Dan said that Chip Roraback’s, the town attorney’s, input was that the town has an ordinance which makes legal the way the town is now handling the budget, i.e. bypassing the taxpayers at the Annual Budget Meeting and instead automatically sending the budget to referendum. Dan said that Chip also added that even if the taxpayers were able to amend the budget at the Annual Budget Meeting, they would only be able to amend the total amount of the budget and not make changes to individual line items.
Being a Special Meeting, our reporter was not able to ask questions about the town attorney’s input on her and her husband’s letter. However, Bruce Gresczyk said that he feels that the way the town is handling the budget (removing the ability of taxpayers to make changes to the budget at the Annual Budget Meeting) is illegal and that the ordinance should be done away with. Bruce added that it’s a big expense to send the budget to referendum when only a couple of hundred people go to vote on it. Dan did not respond to Bruce’s input but repeated the town attorney’s input and then proposed removing Item # 1 from the agenda of the Annual Budget Meeting.
After the meeting ended our reporter asked Dan Jerram whether he had gotten the town attorney’s opinion in writing and Dan said that he hadn’t, that he didn’t think Chip would be able to do it in time (before the Annual Budget Meeting on Tuesday the 26th). Our reporter said that they had asked for an opinion in writing and Dan responded that he had called the town’s attorney as a courtesy and he ended the conversation there.
Note: Selectman Tom Klebart who is also an attorney, was unable to be at this morning’s meeting; however, he told our reporter and her husband that he was aware of doubts about the legality of the ordinance which the selectmen have used for the past 15 years to remove the budget from consideration by the taxpayers at the Annual Budget Meeting.
The town attorney at the time that the ordinance was passed in 1990, Attorney Pickard, had also purportedly been of the opinion that the town ordinance – which had been passed as a reaction to an active taxpayers’ association – was not legal as it was being used by the selectmen as the basis to deprive taxpayers of the ability to make changes to the budget at the Annual Budget Meeting and to send the budget to referendum.
To see a copy of Maria and Bob Moore’s letter to the Board of Finance with a copy of the 1990 ordinance and a copy of the state statute that gives the town’s taxpayers the right to consider and make changes to the town budget at the Annual Budget Meeting, please see our April 6 article Request To Return To Consideration Of Proposed Town Budget At Annual Budget Meeting…
Notice of Annual Budget Meeting & Notice of Referendum
Following is a copy of the notice setting the annual Budget Meeting and the Notice of Referendum: