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Charter revision report goes to Weston Board of Selectmen

The Charter Revision Commission has unanimously approved and submitted to the Board of Selectmen a final report on its recommended changes to the Weston Town Charter.

The Board of Selectmen is expected to review and discuss the report at its meeting Thursday, May 17, at 8:30 in the Meeting Room at town hall.

The board will also likely set a date for a public hearing on the charter report, which, by law, it must hold within 45 days.

First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said earlier this week the board will talk about ways to break the report into separate questions to be considered by voters on the Nov. 6 ballot.

There are at least two issues about which the public has already been vocal enough to warrant posing them as separate charter questions, Ms. Weinstein said: proposed changes to the budget voting process and whether the town clerk and/or the tax collector should be appointed or elected positions.

Tweaking

After the Charter Revision Commission held its own public hearing last month, some — but not many — changes were made to the commission’s original draft proposal.

It tweaked its original recommendations to leave the town clerk as an elected position, but kept its recommendation to change the tax collector to an appointed post beginning in 2013 (when the current tax collector’s term expires). It also added a mechanism that would allow 5% of eligible voters to petition for a Town Meeting and subsequent machine vote on the question of changing the town clerk to an appointed post.

According to the commission’s report, “With regard to the tax collector, given the support of the Tax Collectors’ Association, the increasing prevalence of appointed tax collectors in Connecticut and the commission’s strong sense of the appropriateness of this change, the commission’s recommendation is that the position be changed to an appointed one. However, the same mechanism described In the preceding paragraph [about changing the town clerk to appointed] could be used to convert the position of Tax Collector to an elected position, continuing to have a two-year term.”

Budget

There are many changes being recommended to the way Westonites vote on their annual budget.

For example, the ATBM would still be able to reduce the town, capital and school budgets, but only if at least 2% of qualified voters are present. And, the commission’s proposal would change the timing of the ATBM and automatically send the ATBM-approved town, capital and school budgets to machine referendum.

The commission has also recommended making some changes to the length of office of some elected officials; eliminating some archaic positions; requiring pre-approval of requests for legal opinions by some commissions; changing the requirements for petitioning to overrule a Board of Selectmen decision.

Next steps

After the Board of Selectmen’s public hearing, the selectmen then have 15 days to either accept the commission’s report in full or return it to the charter commission with comments. If they accept the report, the seven-member Charter Revision Commission, which has been meeting about three to five times a month since last summer, is done with its job.

If they return it with comments, the commission will reconvene and it has 30 days to respond.

Once the commission has responded, the Board of Selectmen has 15 days to either accept or reject the report.

If accepted, the proposed changes would then go to the voters for final approval. If the selectmen reject it, there is a procedure by which members of the public could petition to put the recommendations on the ballot anyway.

The hope is to get the charter change question or questions on the Nov. 6 presidential election ballot.

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