ABOUT TOWN: Referenda

Everybody’s doing it. Or so it seems!

It has been referendum time for town budgets recently, and more than I can ever recall, Connecticut towns are going the referendum route. Google “budget referenda ct 2012” and you’ll find stories on that subject.

Whether the towns go for one all-day machine vote, or two, or three, or, in the case of Seymour, four so far, voting in secret on budgets, especially school budgets, seems to be popping up all over.

Bethel voters approved proposed budgets, but overwhelmingly voted “too high” on non-binding advisory questions asking if the town and school budgets were too high or too low.

Who else among Connecticut’s 169 towns is going the statutory “7.7” route, holding referenda? Reciting the answer almost sounds like lyrics from The Pirates of Penzance’s “I am the very model of a modern major-general.”

My short list from the Internet: Haddam, East Granby, Clinton, Killingworth and Avon; Hebron, Ellington, Woodbridge, Windsor and Haddam; Westbrook, Woodstock, Woodbury, Kent and North Stonington; Hartland, Deep River, Farmington, Tolland and Colebrook; Colchester, Ashford, Thomaston, and Thompson; North Haven, Vernon, Oxford, Somers, and Plymouth; Lebanon, Simsbury, Middlebury, and yes, Weston.

And this just from cursory research! Keeping to the Gilbert and Sullivan theme, it is only the first verse!

What do many of these towns have in common besides holding budget referenda this year? Many use the Town Meeting form of government.

New budget process?

Weston’s comprehensive charter revision process is poised to arrive at the Board of Selectmen for public hearing next Thursday, June 14, at Weston Town Hall.

As we ready ourselves to comment on the Charter Revision Commission’s proposed new charter, it would be interesting to do the math and assess how many times each of the above mentioned communities voted on their 2012-13 budgets. What were their turnouts? How close were the votes?

Unfortunately, this would be a major research undertaking, involving reading lots of old newspaper articles.

Generally, most Town Meetings around Connecticut have reached their budget decisions by now. But there are those that are still going back for yet another vote.

One thing that seems clear is that in referendum after referendum, only a small percentage of voters trudged to the polls.

Bethel had a 30% turnout, Avon 9.9%, and Simsbury around 15%. Other communities bemoaned not getting even that.

As you might recall, this year Weston’s referendum managed to attract only 364 out of well over 6,000 eligible voters, down from prior years.

Was this referendum really necessary?

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. This week’s guest is Dr. Colleen Palmer, Weston superintendent of schools.

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