Change the Town of Greenwich Charter to give taxpayers control of the budget
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Our Town Together was formed by residents who would like to be able to have their say in the spending of the tax dollars that we, not the politicians, provide for Greenwich. We believe that the appropriation of these dollars must reflect the will of the voters, and not just the opinions of the two political parties who have a monopoly on how they spend. We are proposing a small but significant change to an existing ordinance that will make our finance board more accountable to the people.
As you may be aware, the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) passed a budget that took $3 million away from that originally contemplated to our public schools. In virtually all towns in Connecticut, budgets by finance boards are reviewed and voted upon by either the Town as a whole, or by its legislature, which in Greenwich is the Representative Town Meeting (the RTM). In virtually every town, if money is not appropriated for an item, if a strong majority would like to have added to the budget, like this school money, the voter has options to have those funds restored. But not in Greenwich! In Greenwich, you can’t vote out the BET members because they are not selected by the voters, but by the political parties themselves and they don’t rely on your support for their power to spend your money. The RTM spends thousands of hours reviewing the budget, but are only allowed to subtract dollars, never to add money when its desperately needed. In the future, a Democratic run BET would have just as much ability as the current Republican majority in denying spending for vital and beloved projects or causes. Many didn’t realize it, but the minute the political parties tied 6-6 at the BET, and the Republican Chair broke the tie, there was no recourse at all. That must end.
We would like your help in signing a petition to make a small but vital change to an existing ordinance in Town. This change, shown below, would allow citizens to call for a referendum to allow increases in budget items where the people feel necessary. This right is currently lacking, and one can expect issues like the school system cuts to come again and again without leaving the people who pay these taxes any ability to have their wishes carried out. We would like to take as many signatures to the Board of Selectmen as soon as possible, to let the RTM approve this change that would allow voters and taxpayers the final say. The existing rule, which has been in place as is since 1970, creates a bar high enough to make its use reserved for only the most clear and rare circumstances where politics or bad judgment need to be changed for the better. The people should always be the final say, but in Greenwich they do not have this right. Lets take steps to change that now, before it happens again.
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THE PROPOSED ACTION WILL ELIMINATE THE SECTION MARKED IN BOLD, BELOW FROM THE EXISTING GREENWICH TOWN ORDINANCE
Sec. 175. - Referendum; appropriations.
When a petition shall be filed asking for the submission to the voters of the Town, of any question as to the annual appropriations for the Town's expenditures for the ensuing year, such petition shall set forth each item of appropriation as to which a question is involved with the amount of the appropriation as approved by the Representative Town Meeting and the amount to which the petitioners desire it to be decreased or increased, provided such increase shall not be above the amount approved by the Board of Estimate and Taxation. A separate question shall be submitted to the voters on each such item of appropriation and shall call for an answer "Yes" or "No." The answer "No" shall mean the sustaining of the appropriation as fixed by the Town Meeting. The answer "Yes" shall mean the fixing of such appropriation at the figure suggested by the petitioners.
The annual appropriation as fixed by the Town Meeting shall be the appropriation for the ensuing year except as to those items upon which the referendum is called for and those items which on the referendum are answered "No" shall remain as fixed by such Town Meeting, and those items which on the referendum are answered "Yes" shall be changed in accordance with the referendum and the appropriation so fixed by the Representative Town Meeting and as so modified by such referendum shall be the appropriation for the ensuing year.
In the event that such right of referendum should be exercised, as above provided with respect to the action or actions of any Representative Town Meeting on the budget of the Town for the ensuing year, so that such action or actions of the Representative Town Meeting cannot be finally determined by May 25 in any year, then the time within which the Board of Estimate and Taxation shall lay the tax shall be extended to five (5) days after such referendum vote.
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