The selectmen are expected to discuss the proposed charter (which is printed in its entirety on pages 10A-13A) at their regular meeting next Thursday, Sept. 6. At that time, they need to formulate how the charter question or questions will appear on the ballot at the Nov. 6 election.
First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said earlier this week she is still debating in her own mind whether to ask voters to simply approve or reject the entire charter or whether to ask separate questions about some of the issues that garnered the most discussion during the charter revision process.
Those issues included changes to the budget approval process and changing the town clerk and/or tax collector positions to appointed rather than elected ones.
In the current charter, the Annual Town Budget Meeting (ATMB) is designated as the standard place where voters decide the town, school, and capital budgets by voice vote. Voters may petition for a referendum, but it is not required to hold one.
The proposed charter revision stipulates the budget amounts approved by voters at the ATBM for the town operating budget, the school budget, and the capital budget would automatically go to a machine vote (a referendum) for final approval. Each budget would be voted upon separately at referendum.
The new charter also would require at least 2% of qualified voters to be in attendance at the ATBM in order for reductions to the budgets approved by the Board of Selectmen and the school board to be made.
The selectmen appointed a Charter Revision Commission last year. Over the course of the year, the seven-member commission met dozens of times, interviewed many people, and held several public hearings on the charter before presenting its proposal to the Board of Selectmen in June.
After taking into consideration the comments of the selectmen — the main concern was a desire to separate the capital and town operating budgets rather than have them voted on as one item — the Charter Revision Commission presented its final report to the selectmen July 12.
At a special meeting July 23, the board accepted the “amended and restated” charter, which is subject to final approval by the voters on Nov. 6.
The selectmen — minus Dennis Tracey, who has recused himself from the charter discussions because he was a member of the Charter Revision Commission — must decide the wording for the ballot question or questions soon. The deadline for printing absentee ballots for the Nov. 6 election is Sept. 15.