Vote Your Conscience
Vote Your Conscience
To the Editor:
This year we have seen the return of a threatening practice of telling voters that if they vote the budget down it will automatically result in a reduced budget, and by implication reduced educational funding.Â This tactic is a repeat of Pat Llodraâs letter last year to The Bee dated April 3, 2009, where she encouraged voters to vote Yes because the Legislative Council would only reduce the budget. And again by implication education funding would also be reduced.
Fortunately the voices of the community began to fight back against this tactic and the first budget was voted down and education funds were not reduced. It is distressing, however, to see this bullying of the voters going on. The Newtown Bee reported that almost 20 percent of those taking its budget survey planned on voting for the budget for fear a No vote would only reduce education funds. Both the chairwoman of the Board of Education and the superintendent of schools have expressed concern that the education budget is inadequate but that a No vote will only reduce the educational budget, regardless of the voterâs intent.
The budget process is severely broken in Newtown. The Finance Board and Legislative Council seem to be numb to voter input. They refuse to find a way to have budget advisory questions to ascertain what the voters want, preferring to make these important decision themselves.
It is time to revise how we conduct this annual budget ritual and that will require charter changes. I support a split budget, allowing the taxpayers to vote on the town and education sides of the budget separately. I support having advisory questions so we know whether the voters feel the budgets are too high or too low. I support changing the voting requirement of the Legislative Council so that a majority vote can add or delete expenses from the proposed budget. (Currently only a majority is required to delete expenses, but a two-thirds vote is needed to add funds). I believe we should compare the proposed budget to what we expect to actually spend this year, not the last yearâs inflated budget. I believe it is wrong to misrepresent budgets by shifting expenses to the capital expense line or hiding increases by using commodity savings.
When we fix the budget process with charter revisions we will return to the voters their rightful voice, and our elected officials will begin once again to represent the will of residents of Newtown. Vote your conscience on May 18, and then let us focus on fixing the broken budget process.
12 Glover Avenue, Newtown May 5, 2010