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ABOUT TOWN: Charter

Tonight’s the night! Attend the selectmen’s public hearing on the new charter. The time is 7:30 and the place is the town hall Meeting Room!

Major changes are being proposed on the budget process. It will end at a later date. A referendum on the town, school, and capital budgets will permit voting in secret.

Will you be there tonight? Will those who would prefer to leave the budget process the way it is outnumber those who want a private ballot? Will members of the school community show up in force? Some excellent comments came forward at the April public hearing, asking if a mandatory referendum makes the Annual Town Budget Meeting (ATBM) unnecessary.

At the previous public hearing, the most controversial issue was the Charter Revision Commission’s proposal to make the town clerk and tax collector positions appointive. Those who showed up that night emphasized that they would lose the right to vote for these offices.

The commission subsequently reached a compromise on this matter. Leaving the town clerk position as elected and making the tax collector position appointive was their Solomonic decision.

Built into the new charter now is the ability of voters to reverse the status of both offices. Previously, the charter revision draft had only made the town clerk subject to this provision. In my reading of the proposed new charter, this change leaves the decision for both offices in the hands of Town Meeting voters, a good thing!

Legislative report

The legislative short session is over. The Connecticut General Assembly did a lot. You name the “hot button” issue, the legislature voted on it!

“Education reformers” clashed with the teachers’ unions. The saying “the devil’s in the details” was never more true. The governor’s 160-plus page bill was revised behind closed doors into another tome of equal size. This one passed muster with the legislature, ultimately, and the governor signed it into law.

There are now 10 districts in a statewide commissioner’s network of public schools, that will be testing reform ideas in the coming years.

One thing that became clear to me after the dust settled was that promises to release the most successful school districts from some unfunded mandates may have actually been kept.

Somewhere in the fine print of the bill, Senate Bill 24, this may actually be stipulated. But, in any event, the commissioner of education has stated since the end of the session that that is his intent. Bravo!

The best thing about the Education Bill, in my opinion, was that the ultimate solution was a compromise. Members of the legislature from both parties agreed on this most critical set of issues, to the benefit of the children of Connecticut.

NOTE: “About Town” is also a television program. It appears on Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30 to 6 p.m. on Cablevision Channel 88 (Public Access). Or see it at aboutweston.com.

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