This year’s Annual Budget Meeting took an unexpected turn when Reggie Smith, Jr., the Moderator of the meeting, declared himself open to allowing discussion of the Town’s proposed budget at that meeting if someone made the motion to discuss the budget and if the motion carried. In a room packed with party faithfuls, this was a remote possibility, but at least it was introduced as a possibility. This year’s May 1, 2012, Annual Budget Meeting is the first time in 22 years – as far as we can ascertain – that the meeting has been opened for discussion of the proposed budget. Since 1990, when Reggie Smith Jr. was First Selectman and was having great difficulty in having a town budget passed under pressure from an activist Taxpayers’ Association, the town’s selectmen have every year removed the discussion of the Town’s proposed budget from the Annual Budget Meeting before removing the budget from the Annual Budget Meeting to a referendum vote.
In answer to Reggie’s statement that he was open to the possibility of allowing discussion of the budget during this year’s Annual Budget Meeting, Maria Moore, a member of the town’s Board of Finance, responded by requesting that the Annual Budget Meeting be adjourned and that another legal notice be published informing the townspeople that discussion of the budget would be allowed at the Annual Budget Meeting. Ignoring her request, Reggie asked again if anyone wanted to make a motion to discuss the budget. Maria made the motion to discuss the budget, the motion was seconded by Daria Hart and when put to a vote 4 taxpayers voted for the budget to be discussed and 17 voted against discussion of the budget. The vote was split along party lines: Of the 4 who voted for discussion of the budget, two are members of the Democratic Party, one is Unaffiliated (Maria Moore) and one taxpayer’s political affiliation is unknown; of the 17 who voted against discussion of the budget, 16 are members of the Republican Party, and one taxpayer’s party affiliation is unknown.
Before Maria made the motion to consider the budget at the Annual Budget meeting, Denton Butler asked an important procedural question:
“If [emphasis added] the selectmen have the authority to remove an item from an agenda that she is proposing, isn’t that a moot point?”
And that is exactly the point:
Do the town’s selectmen have a legal basis for their removal of the discussion of the proposed budget from the Annual Budget Meeting before they move the vote on the proposed budget from the Annual Budget Meeting to referendum?
The town’s selectmen maintain that they have the legal right to remove the discussion and the action on the budget from the Annual Budget Meeting. At this year’s Annual Budget Meeting Reggie Smith introduced the possibility of allowing discussion of the budget at that meeting, even while maintaining that the selectmen have the ability to remove the budget from discussion. From her reading of the state statutes and from conversations she had had with other towns’ leaders whose towns allow discussion and acting upon their proposed budgets at their Annual Town (Budget) Meetings, Maria Moore believes that the town’s selectmen do not have the legal authority to remove the budget from discussion at our Annual Budget Meetings. This is a question that is now in the hands of attorneys to resolve. We will, of course, update this article when more information becomes available.
Following is the 12.49 minute-long Annual Budget Meeting held this past Tuesday, May 1, 2012:
Proposed Budget Moved To Referendum Vote On Tuesday, May 8
Since the Town’s proposed budget was not discussed at the Annual Budget Meeting and no line items were adjusted, the proposed budget to be voted on at referendum this coming Tuesday, May 8, is the exact same proposed budget that was finalized by the Board of Finance at their Special Meeting on April 17.
To read a summary and view the video of the Board of Finance Special Meeting on April 17 see our April 20 article Board Of Finance Meets, Approves Proposed Total Town Budget For 2012-2013 FY With 2.75% Increase.
To review the proposed Town Budget, the New Hartford Schools’ Board of Ed budget and the Regional # 7 Board of Ed budget, see our April 30 article Proposed Budgets From Town Administration, Local Schools and Regional # 7 Boards Of Ed Available For Annual Budget Meeting & Budget Referendum.
The referendum on the proposed Town Budget for Fiscal Year 2012-2013 will be held this Tuesday, May 8, 2012. The question to be voted upon is:
“Shall the budget of the Town of New Hartford including General Government, New Hartford Board of Education and Capital Expenditures recommended by the Board of Finance for the Fiscal Year commencing July 1, 2012, be accepted?”
The legal notice for the Annual Budget Meeting and for the Budget Referendum published in the Hartford Courant on April 25, 2012, is below:
Disclosure: Maria Moore is the editor and a reporter of NewHartfordPlus. She is also a member of the town’s Board of Finance.