TOWN OF EAST WINDSOR
CHARTER REVISION COMMISSION
August 14, 2008
***** Draft Document - Subject to Commission Review *****
The Meeting was called to order at 7:05 p.m. by Co-Chairman George Butenkoff in the Town Hall Meeting Room, 11 Rye Street, Broad Brook, CT.
Present: Co-Chairman George Butenkoff, Members , Claire Badstubner, Karen Gaudreau, Joyce Phillips, Scott Riach, and Madeleine Thompson,
Absent: Co-Chairman John Matthews, Donald Arcari, Edward Farrell, Charles Riggott, and Bonnie Yosky.
Guests: Marie DeSousa, and Kathy Pippin, representing the Board of Finance.
ADDED AGENDA ITEMS: None
PREVIOUS MEETING MINUTES/comments and acceptance:
MOTION: To APPROVE the Minutes of July 24, 2008 with the following amendments: Deleting Co-Chairman John Matthews from attendance and as Chair of the meeting, and replacing with Co-Chairman George Butenkoff as Chair of the Meeting, and on page 1, under PUBLIC PARTICIPATION, commentary by Diane Dzikiewicz, 6 Juniper Court, replace “he” with “she” where applicable.
Riach moved/Badstubner seconded/
VOTE: In Favor: Butenkoff/Riach/Badstubner/Philips/Thompson
Opposed: No one
PUBLIC PARTICIPATION - The public is encouraged to provide their thoughts as succinct as possible. CRC Members will not comment on the merits of an idea at this meeting but may ask questions to clarify the proposal. A time limit may be imposed.
No one requested to speak at this time.
WRITTEN INPUT SUBMITTED TO CRC/a) Memo from Laurie Whitten, Town Planner, requesting the Conservation Commission/Inland Wetlands Commission be split into 2 commissions; AND b) Memo from Eric Moffett, Chairman of the Economic Development commission requesting the current membership makeup be changed to include 2 alternate members:
The Commission considered the appropriate process for initiating the requested changes; should the Charter be changed first and then the ordinances amended to reflect the Charter changes, or should the opposite occur? Commissioner Gaudreau felt the request for changes should go to the Board of Selectmen first.
MOTION: To REFER THE MEMOS REQUESTING CHANGES TO THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION COMPOSITION AND CHANGES TO THE CONSERVATION COMMISSION - INLAND/WETLANDS AND NATURAL RESOURCES PRESERVATION COMMISSION CONFIGURATION TO THE BOARD OF SELECTMEN PRIOR TO REVISING THE CHARTER TO REFLECT THOSE CHANGES.
Philips moved/Buttenkoff seconded/VOTE: In Favor: Unanimous
ADMINISTRATIVE HOUSEKEEPING/(a): No items presented for discussion.
REVIEW OF CRC MEMBERS input for proposed revisions: Nothing presented.
DISCUSSION OF TOP 5(a) Additional appropriations - should they go to referendum, or should the amount which triggers approval via a Town Meeting be raised:
The Commission discussed the current process of presenting additional appropriations to the vote at a Town Meeting; some Commissioners felt various parties could stack a Town Meeting for a favorable vote on a specific appropriation. The Commission has recently approved a Charter revision to increase the amount of any appropriation going to Town Meeting from $20,000 to $30,000. Commissioner Riach questioned if any additional appropriations of $100,000 had come before a Town Meeting; Co-Chairman Butenkoff indicated a vote on an additional appropriation for $50,000 for a fire truck came up recently. Commissioner Philips and Riach suggested setting a percentage as the trigger for going to referendum, although Commissioner Philips felt the town was losing the Town Meeting form of government by setting
numerous referendums. Commissioner Gaudreau felt that anything that requires a bond issue, with the exception of anticipation bonds, should go to referendum.
MOTION: THAT ANY APPROPRIATION THAT NEEDS TO GO TO BONDING - WITH THE EXCEPTION OF ANTICIPATION BONDS - REQUIRES AN AUTOMATIC REFERENDUM.
Gaudreau moved/Philips seconded/VOTE: In Favor: Unanimous
NOTE: The Commission has not changed the requirement that any additional appropriation in the amount of $30,000 must go to a Town Meeting.
DISCUSSION OF TOP 5(b) Discussion of separate referendum for additional appropriations requested midway in the fiscal year:
DISCUSSION OF TOP 5(c) Report of Sub-Committee regarding review of language revision for Section 8-4 Budget Meeting, Subsection B, regarding vote of those present in relation to automatic referendum:
Commissioners Philips and Thompson presented their draft language for revision of Section 8-4 Budget Meeting, Subsection B. Commissioner Thompson advised the Commissioners their language gives a choice of 3 referendums or unlimited referendums; the Budget Meeting then becomes an informational meeting. The proposal they have submitted to the Commission deletes Subsections A and B of Section 8-4 Budget Meeting; Commissioner Philips indicated there would be no need for these sections because this language asks the voters to go to referendum.
Commissioner Philips referenced the draft language proposal, noting they are offering the Commission two options: 1) offers 3 referendums, with a reversion to the current year’s budget plus the CPI cost of living increase; and 2) offers unlimited referendums. Commissioner Philips felt option 1 didn’t really sound fair because it would be doing what was done this year by someone other than the voter making the decision, which they felt was questionable. Commissioner Gaudreau cautioned that reverting to the previous budget doesn’t take into consideration the contractual issues that would be in place for the current budget; you can’t just cross those contractual agreements off. Commissioner Philips felt it was just as much taking away the decision from the voter as what was done this
Commissioner Thompson noted they have taken out the word “automatic” with regard to referendums, as they thought that was redundant, and they have taken out the requirement for petitions to send a budget to referendum.
Co-Chairman Butenkoff felt everyone learned something from what occurred at the referendum, and it puts a burden on this Commission to go through the charter to make it clear. Comissioner Gaudreau noted there are attorneys that specialize in working with Charter Revision Commissions. She noted the Commission has a minimal budget but suggested the Commission consider requesting an additional appropriation for review and guidance by another party. Commissioner Riach preferred to present the Commission’s revisions to the Board of Selectmen (BOS) to make decisions with their attorney.
Commissioner Gaudreau clarified that the outside attorney wouldn’t be approving anything, but would be offering guidance along the way. No action was taken on this suggestion.
Commissioner Philips returned to the second option of the revised language, noting their following revision: “.......In the event the proposed budget is not adopted by June twentieth, the budget adopted for the current fiscal year shall be deemed to be the temporary budget for the coming fiscal year and expenditures may be made on a month to month basis until such time as a subsequent referendum vote finally adopts a new budget.” Commissioner Philips suggested business could go on as usual and a second tax bill could be issued if necessary. Commissioner Gaudreau noted that’s a fine approach for real estate tax bills but motor vehicle tax bills are a one shot bill.
Commissioner Gaudreau reported she talked to a printer regarding the addition of questions to the charter revision vote. As the Commission is proposing presently there would be six questions on the budget split itself. If the ballot were to go to a two page document it would cost 83 cents vs. 50 cents for a single page ballot. While that cost seems minimal it would be adding an additional $3000 to each referendum. Co-Chairman Butenkoff suggested that cost would apply if the ballots went through the machines; he felt paper ballots could be used instead. Commissioner Philips felt if that’s the cost that’s what it costs for people to have a chance to have their vote; if it costs that much each time maybe it won’t take that many times to pass a referendum.
Discussion turned to the wording for the first question regarding the split budget. Currently the Commission has revised language for Section 8-3 Budget Preparation, Subsection G to read as follows: “The Board of Finance will review the recommended budgets submitted to it and shall prepare a proposed Town budget for submission to a public hearing. THE BUDGET SHALL BE SPLIT BETWEEN THE BOARD OF EDUCATION BUDGET AND THE GENERAL TOWN BUDGET. THE REFERENDUM WILL CONSIST OF A BOARD OF EDUCATION BUDGET AND A GENERAL TOWN BUDGET, AND THE FOLLOWING ADVISORY QUESTIONS WILL BE ADDED: IS THE BOARD OF EDUCATION BUDGET TOO HIGH? IS THE BOARD OF EDUCATION BUDGET TOO LOW? IS THE GENERAL TOWN BUDGET TOO HIGH? IS THE GENERAL TOWN BUDGET TOO LOW?”
After discussing several options it was felt the questions could be revised to: “IS THE BOARD OF EDUCATION BUDGET: TOO HIGH? TOO LOW? IS THE GENERAL TOWN BUDGET: TOO HIGH? TOO LOW? No vote was taken on this revised language for Section 3 - Budget Preparation, Subsection G at this time.
Returning discussion to the review of revised draft language for Section 8-4 Annual Budget Meeting the Commission considered whether they preferred option 1 (3 referendums) or option 2 (unlimited referendums).
MOTION: To ADOPT OPTION 2 OF THE PROPOSED LANGUAGE FOR SECTION 8-4 ANNUAL BUDGET MEETING: “THE NUMBER OF BUDGET
REFERENDUMS SHALL BE UNLIMITED AND THE FINAL ANNUAL BUDGET WILL BECOME EFFECTIVE ONLY UPON APPROVAL BY A MAJORITY OF QUALIFIED VOTERS IN A REFERENDUM VOTE. IN THE EVENT THE PROPOSED BUDGET IS NOT ADOPTED BY JUNE TWENTIETH, THE BUDGET ADOPTED FOR THE CURRENT FISCAL YEAR SHALL BE DEEMED TO BE THE TEMPORARY BUDGET FOR THE COMING FISCAL
YEAR AND EXPENDITURES MAY BE MADE ON A MONTH TO MONTH BASIS UNTIL SUCH TIME AS A SUBSEQUENT REFERENDUM VOTE FINALLY ADOPTS A NEW BUDGET.”
Philips moved/Riach seconded/VOTE: In Favor: Unanimous
DISCUSSION OF TOP 5/(d) Report of Ordinance Sub-Committee (including review of addition of the Code of Ethics):
DISCUSSION OF TOP 5/(e) Review of Demographics for surrounding Towns:
The Commission had requested demographic information be provided for East Windsor and surrounding towns; submitted this evening was that information relative to all towns for which charters are being reviewed by this Commission, including East Windsor. The Commission reviewed the information and found no immediate use for it.
DISCUSSION OF TOP 5/(f) Review of failed Charter revision regarding changes proposed:
Commissioner Riach indicated that the last revision included much discussion regarding the Police Commission vs. a Public Safety Commission, but now he likes the way the Police Commission works with the Town. Co-Chairman Butenkoff felt the biggest mistake was to present the charter accompanied by one question. He felt the Commission needs to go out to various town organizations, such as the Lions Club, the Rotary, etc., and sell the current revisions; Commissioner Philips felt that was the BOS’s role, and if they say no to the changes then the Charter Revision Commission has done its part.
Discussion turned to this Commission’s proposal for the addition of a CFO position, would the position of Treasurer remain and what would it comprise, questioning the cost of both positions, and what affect the charter’s directives will have a year from now if a CFO has been hired in the meantime? Commissioner Gaudreau will research if there is a job description for the current Treasurer’s position.
BRAINSTORM FOR ADDITIONAL ITEMS, NO COUNTER POINTS:
a) Clarify if the ability to sign contracts for the Town lies with the Selectman, set specifics on the contract obligations, i.e. a cap on the amount of monetary obligation.
b) Regarding the Warehouse Point Library, the Ambulance Association, and the Cemetery Association the Town needs to deal with these organizations on a contractual basis, and the parameters for those transactions needs to be set by Charter.
c) Review of Cemetery Association, possibly integrate with Public Works or Parks and Recreation. No employee contracts can be signed unless approved by the BOF/BOS and Town Meeting.
d) Review Ms. DeSousa’s comments from the previous Meeting.
2nd PUBLIC PARTICIPATION:
Marie DeSousa: reported she is speaking not as a BOF member or BOF representative, but as a resident, she has concerns in regards to the timeframe to allow the BOF to turn around a revised budget within 7 days of a referendum and hold a Public Hearing which requires a 5 day notice; she suggested that task might not be doable if a weekend is involved. She also has concerns with regard to a budget not being adopted by June 20th and then initiating a temporary budget; she questioned if the Commission understands what will happen if that money runs out? Is there the ability for the Treasurer to borrow money? If the budget isn’t adopted by June 20th then the tax bills can’t go out because there is no mill rate set, and if the money runs out who has the ability to borrow?
Ms. DeSousa noted the amount required to go to Town Meeting has been increased from $20,000 to $30,000. She felt the taxpayers of East Windsor have made it clear that they want the Town to be fiscally responsible; why not reduce the amount rather than increase it? One of the voters concerns was the overhead on the Board of Education side regarding the additional positions proposed.
Ms. DeSousa questioned if the Charter Revision Commission has the authority to take away from the CEO of the Town to change the job descriptions.
Ms. DeSousa would like the Charter Revision Commission to look at the role of the Police Commission; as a past member of the Police Commission she felt some of their role was outdated.
Discussion returned to the timeframe outlined in the current charter regarding budget preparation relative to repeated referendums. Commissioners Gaudreau and Badstubner suggested the timeframe of 7 to 14 days is set by State Statutes; Ms. DeSousa requested the Statute be identified for clarification. She felt there must be some consideration given to the BOF to prepare a revised budget. Commissioner Philips felt the taxpayers want the budget adopted as soon as possible; there must be a plan A, B, C, etc. Ms. DeSousa felt there was nothing in the Statutes addressing if the signatures must be submitted again for subsequent referendums.
Commissioner Thompson suggested the Commission needs to consider adding the revisions to Section 8-4 Annual Budget Meeting.
MOTION: To ADOPT THE REVISED LANGUAGE SUBMITTED, INCLUDING OPTION 2, FOR THE PROPOSED LANGUAGE FOR SECTION 8-4 ANNUAL BUDGET MEETING.
Thompson moved/Philips seconded/VOTE: In Favor: Unanimous
PROPOSED CHARTER CHANGE:
Section 8-4 Annual Budget Meeting
Paragraph 4: THE FOLLOWING IS BEING DELETED.
The Budget Meeting shall consider and discuss the budget as submitted by the Board of Finance and may take action as follows:
A) No appropriation shall be made exceeding that for the same purpose recommended by the Board of Finance, or for any other purpose not recommended by the Board of Finance.
B) Any additional appropriation may be reduced to a sum less than that recommended by the Board of Finance by an affirmative vote of a majority present and entitled t vote at such meeting.
After due consideration of the proposed budget and action thereon has been completed, and action on any other item on the call of such meeting has been completed, the procedure for adopting the Annual Budget shall be
by vote of the Annual Budget meeting, by a majority of qualified voters present at such meeting. A VOTE BY A MAJORITY OF QUALIFIED VOTERS PRESENT AT SUCH MEETING TO SEND THE BUDGET TO AN AUTOMATIC REFERENDUM. In the event the proposed budget is not adopted by the Annual Budget meeting, the Town shall operate on a budget equal to that of the preceding fiscal year, until such time as a new budget shall be approved by an adjourned Budget Meeting or Referendum called for by petition signed by two hundred
persons entitled to vote at a Town Meeting. Such petitions shall be circulated, filed, and certified in the manner prescribed in Connecticut General Statutes (Chapter) 7-1 and (Chapter) 7-7, and such adjourned Special meeting or Referendum shall be held within fourteen days thereafter, on a date set by the Special meeting. The sum of the estimated expenditures, as amended by said Meeting, or, if not amended, as recommended by the Board of Finance, shall be submitted to the qualified voters for a “YES: or “No” vote on the budget on the voting machines AND PAPER BALLOTS between the hours of 12:00 noon and 8:00 p.m. 6:00 A.M. AND 8:00 P. M. The voting machine labels shall be provided by the Town Clerk. The budget shall, if approved by a majority of those voting, be adopted. Should the referendum vote reject the budget, a second referendum shall be reconvened by the
Moderator without additional signatures within fourteen days. However, a public hearing will be held within seven days of the
referendum prior to the second referendum. Prior to the second referendum, the Board of Finance may revise the rejected budget. A summary of any revisions made by the Board of Finance to the rejected budget shall be made available before the second referendum. THE NUMBER OF BUDGET REFERENDUMS WILL BE LIMITED TO THREE
(3). IF, AFTER THE THIRD REFERENDUM THE BUDGET FAILS THE BUDGET WILL REVERT TO THE PREVIOUS YEAR’S BUDGET PLUS THE CPI (CONSUMER PRICE INDEX) COST OF LIVING INCREASE.
In the event the budget is not adopted by June twentieth, the Board of Selectmen, with the approval of the Board of Finance, may call one or more Special Town meetings, and appropriate funds by way of tax anticipation notes to meet necessary obligations at the budget levels then in effect, from July first to the approval of the budget, or with the approval of the Board of Finance, may make a rate bill upon its last completed list for the amount necessary to pay current expenses of the Town.
Immediately upon approval of the budget, the Board of Finance shall set the tax rate and notify the Tax Collector forthwith. Official copies of the budget as finally approved shall be filed by the Board of Finance with the Town Clerk within five days of the approval.
PARAGRAPH 4: THE ANNUAL BUDGET MEETING SHALL RECEIVE AND DISCUSS THE BUDGET AS SUBMITTED BY THE BOARD OF FINANCE. AFTER DUE CONSIDERATION AND EXPLANATION OF THE BUDGET AS RECOMMENDED BY THE BOARD OF FINANCE, THE PROCEDURE FOR ADOPTING THE ANNUAL BUDGET SHALL BE BY REFERENDUM ON A DATE TO BE HELD WITHIN FOURTEEN DAYS AFTER THE ANNUAL BUDGET MEETING, AS SET BY THE ANNUAL BUDGET MEETING MODERATOR. THE SUM OF THE ESTIMATED EXPENDITURES AS RECOMMENDED BY THE BOARD OF FINANCE SHALL BE SUBMITTED TO THE QUALIFIED VOTERS FOR A YES OR NO VOTE ON THE BUDGET VIA VOTING MACHINES AND PAPER BALLOTS BETWEEN THE HOURS OF 6:00 A.M. AND 8:00 P.M. THE VOTING MACHINE LABELS AND BALLOTS SHALL BE PROVIDED BY THE TOWN CLERK. THE BUDGET SHALL, IF APPROVED BY A MAJORITY OF THOSE VOTING
IN THE REFERENDUM, BE ADOPTED. SHOULD THE REFERENDUM VOTE REJECT THE BUDGET, ADDITIONAL REFERENDUMS AS NEEDED TO ADOPT A BUDGET SHALL BE RECONVENED BY THE MODERATOR WITHIN FOURTEEN DAYS. HOWEVER, A PUBLIC HEARING WILL BE HELD WITHIN SEVEN DAYS PRIOR TO EACH REFERENDUM. PRIOR TO EACH REFERENDUM THE BOARD OF FINANCE SHALL REVISE THE REJECTED BUDGET. A SUMMARY OF REVISIONS MADE BY THE BOARD OF FINANCE TO THE REJECTED BUDGET SHALL BE MADE AVAILABLE PRIOR TO ANY SUCCEEDING REFERENDUMS.
THE NUMBER OF BUDGET REFERENDUMS SHALL BE UNLIMITED AND THE FINAL ANNUAL BUDGET WILL BECOME EFFECTIVE ONLY UPON APPROVAL BY A MAJORITY OF QUALIFIED VOTERS IN A REFERENDUM
VOTE. IN THE EVENT THE PROPOSED BUDGET IS NOT ADOPTED BY JUNE TWENTIETH, THE BUDGET ADOPTED FOR THE CURRENT FISCAL YEAR SHALL BE DEEMED TO BE THE TEMPORARY BUDGET FOR THE COMING FISCAL YEAR AND EXPENDITURES MAY BE MADE ON A MONTH TO MONTH BASIS UNTIL SUCH TIME AS A SUBSEQUENT REFERENDUM VOTE FINALLY ADOPTS A NEW BUDGET.
IMMEDIATELY UPON APPROVAL OF A NEW BUDGET, THE BOARD OF FINANCE SHALL MEET TO SET THE TAX MIL RATE AND SHALL NOTIFY THE TAX COLLECTOR FORTHWITH. OFFICIAL COPIES OF THE BUDGET AS FINALLY APPROVED SHALL BE FILED BY THE BOARD OF FINANCE WITH THE TOWN CLERK WITHIN FIVE DAYS OF THE APPROVAL.
GUIDANCE FOR NEXT MEETING:
See items discussed under Brainstorm for Additional items.
MOTION: To ADJOURN this Meeting at 8:40 p.m.
Philips moved/Riach seconded/VOTE: In Favor: Unanimous
Peg Hoffman, Recording Secretary
East Windsor Charter Revision Commission