The more I read through the Financial Town Referendum proposal, the more I realize the budget process will become a “Budget Bingo”! The mere fact that anyone who wants or doesn't want a particular budget or item can in fact do so by just getting in on the “50 Signature Raffle”, and bingo! Fifty signatures gets your budget proposal on the ballot with no questions asked and no answers given!
This proposal completely reduces the value of the Budget Committee who is given the job under the charter to balance revenues and expenditures in a thoughtful and deliberate manner, and who meets weekly for months in noticed open sessions. The committee scrubs the budget recommendations from the town administrator, all the department Heads, and the school department all in conjunction with the Tax Assessor then brings the finalized budget to the public hearing where it’s presented to the Town.
I have to wonder what the ballot will look like. Will there be columns with each proposal named for what it will represent? So if you're a person who follows the budget process, then I guess you will go through every column until you find the budget proposal that suits you, vote yes and you're done! But how will you know what you're voting for is a legal budget? You will have to do the math to know if your budget will put the Town over the tax cap.
Oh but wait, two members of the Town Council can veto the vote of the people if the budget isn't what they think it should be. If one of the Bingo Budget passes, it will be sent to the Budget Committee who must try to deal with a budget that is neither supported nor defended. Does this make any sense to anyone? No other community in Rhode Island has such a cockamamie budget process.
I don't know about you, but I find this change from the Financial Town Meeting to this Financial Town Referendum to be very dangerous. All you have to do is think about it - how has it been vetted?
A change of this magnitude should have gone through a Charter Review Commission duly elected by the voters of this town, which would have taken the time necessary to be sure that every aspect of this proposal is legal and practical and fully vetted, not as in this case a group selected by this council. In essence there are still more questions than answers.
Democracy is messy, and the Financial Town Meeting isn’t perfect. However, this proposal isn’t the silver bullet.
What do we have to lose? Everything!!!
Vote no for Financial Town Referendum on Nov. 8.