The proponents of this new charter believe that the budget referendum will somehow be the cure for every problem that Groton has. Groton certainly has it's challenges, and reasonable people can differ on the efficacy of a budget referendum to fix them, but to do that the referendum must have the power to control the budget, and due to a flaw in 126.96.36.199 of the proposed referendum, the referendum does not actually control the budget.
188.8.131.52 Interim Budget and Fixing the Tax Rate In case a Budget is not approved by June 30, the budget submitted by the Town Council per Section 9.10.3 shall be utilized as an interim budget until a new Budget is approved by referendum. Within three (3) business days after an interim budget is approved goes in to effect, the Town Council will set a mill rate that shall be sufficient, with the income from other sources, to meet the estimated expenses of the Town for the next fiscal year.
So there's an interim budget. That's a good solution to the budget chaos that neighboring towns have, right?
Well, yes, it does prevent budget chaos, but it also removes the teeth from the referendum. Let's look at an example.
|Whatever the charter was supposed to do, it doesn't do it.|
Let us imagine that the Town Council puts up a budget of $45,000,000 for an initial vote. The referendum fails, and the Town Council makes a good faith effort to offer a new budget with deep cuts, this time $43,000,000. It fails as well. So, the Town Council makes a third effort with a $41,000,000 budget. A $4,000,000 cut means a lot of cuts in services, but the people are speaking and they are trying to listen.
The people vote no again. June 30th comes around and 184.108.40.206 comes into effect. The first, $45,000,000 budget goes into effect and the Town Council sets a mill rate accordingly.
|If your car keeps breaking down, you fix the car.|
You don't throw away your tool box.
After the Town Council offers $45,000,000 a couple more times, the referendum will either pass when people realize it is already in effect, or it will keep failing... until it passes because people realize it's already in effect.
The following year, there's no reason for the Council to mess around. They'll just put forward the budget they want in the first place, and it doesn't matter if it passes or fails because after three votes it goes into effect anyway.
Of course, this exercise in fake democracy costs taxpayers about $100,000 every year, or $400,000 over the course of a Town Council's four year term. That's the same amount it cost to get the Fitch Community Center up and running. That's a lot of money to waste to pretend the public can influence the budget.
Ultimately, the check of the RTM and it's reduction of 1-2% every year from the budget is gone. The Board of Finance is powerless. The referendum is easily ignored. In any system with no checks and balances in place, the natural result is budgets slowly but inexorably growing.
|Spending money on a referendum that doesn't matter.|
Yeah, it's kind of like that.
The only reasonable vote on the proposed Groton charter is NO.