The Granby Board of Selectmen unanimously agreed that the option for an automatic, machine-counted referendum format to vote on the town budget should be on the November ballot at its meeting Monday night.
through a recently circulated petition. An informational public hearing held on June 21 featured the .
While the four selectmen (vice chairwoman Sally King was not in attendance) held different personal beliefs about which process was more effective, they all agreed that the townspeople should ultimately have the final say on the budget voting format.
“I want that vote in November,” said selectman Mark Neumann, who said he personally supports the current town meeting process. “It will be the majority of voters who decide.”
Selectman Ron Desrosiers has been a selectman through two previous charter revisions and supported the town meeting format at those times. But he pointed to the notable support the referendum option gathered in this revision process.
A major factor influencing Desrosiers’ position was the sense of frustration and lack of trust some residents had over the current budget approval format. Currently, only 230 voters need to be present and a two-thirds majority can approve the budget. He also pointed out some logistical issues, including those with work schedules that preclude attendance at a town meeting, family care concerns and the inability of some residents to drive safely at night.
“It is clear to me that the voters must be given the choice of making the decision to vote on the budget through an automatic budget [referendum] or town meeting,” he wrote in a prepared statement about his position. “If we don’t give the voters that option, the seeds of frustrations, distrust and anger will grow and spread into other areas of government.”
The responsibility of elected officials to the people that vote them into office played a significant part in selectman Scott Kuhnly’s decision to support a vote the referendum option.
“As an elected official, I hope and am honored that the people of Granby have put their trust in us to make good decisions on their behalf,” he said. “Perhaps the biggest part of that trust is the faith that we will listen.”
First Selectman John Adams pointed out some of the benefits of the town meeting system: the reduced cost of that format, financial stability during the era when town meetings have been used to vote on the budget and the ease of gathering budget feedback through town meetings.
“The adoption of an automatic referendum places greater responsibility on the entire electorate,” he said, encouraging voters to become informed on budget issues before casting a ballot.
But Adams also said he wants to see the referendum option on the November ballot.
In the referendum option, Adams called for a public budget hearing on the second Monday of April each year, followed by a machine-counted referendum on the fourth Monday of April.
The recommendation for an automatic budget referendum will now be passed back to the charter revision commission. What will likely be that commission’s final recommendations will return to the selectmen for consideration on August 6.
The recommendation, assuming the charter revision commission adopts it, will be included as a separate, yes-or-no question on the November ballot.