If you haven’t read my COVID-19 update of March 20th, please do so. This update will bump it off the banner but it has information you should know.
As some of you know the Governor issued Executive Order (EO) 7I on Saturday, March 21st. The order is extensive and affects a lot of town operations. I want to address its impact on our budgetary process.
In paragraph 13, the EO states “…the board of selectmen, shall authorize the budget-making authority within said municipality to adopt a budget for the July 1, 2020 - June 30, 2021 fiscal year…without holding votes required by charter or without complying with any in-person budget adoption requirements, including but not limited to, annual town meetings requiring votes, referendum, and special town meetings”. The EO also requires the budget making authority (our Board of Finance) to publicize the proposed budget and receive timely comments, including posting it on the Town website and providing an email address for comments. (The EO gives the RSD17 Board of Education the same authority. I’ve been, and will continue to be, in conversation with their President about how to best move forward.) Understandably, the EO prompted a flurry of activity on Facebook. Many were concerned about losing their voice in town government.
Let me reassure you, I will do my best during this crisis to ensure your voice is heard and that our normal processes are followed albeit, perhaps, in a modified way. You didn’t elect me to be a king and I don’t look good wearing a crown. Before this order was issued, I intended to delay our required budget hearing and subsequent town meeting until it was safe to meet in person. Our charter allows us to operate under the current budget if we haven’t approved a new one once the fiscal year begins on July 1st. However, the town doesn’t have the authority to override an executive order. The Board of Selectman (BOS) must grant the authority in the EO to the Board of Finance (BOF), although the EO doesn’t include a deadline for the BOS to act. Also, just because the BOF has the authority to pass the budget without a public vote doesn’t mean they will. Additionally, an earlier executive order, EO 7C, extended the budget timeline in town charters by 30 days. That increases the chance that we can follow our normal process. So can I guarantee you’ll get to vote on our budget? Certainly not. Another EO, other events or complications may force us to forgo the vote. It’s not what I want to do, it’s not what I intend to do but I may have to do it.
Please put your trust in the people you elected last November. (If this doesn’t demonstrate how important elections are, I don’t know what does.) You voted for the candidates you thought would best represent you. I’m comfortable saying that everyone elected wants to do what’s best for all of us. Let us know what you think.
We all, including me, need to take a deep breath and relax before we react during this unfolding crisis. I know how scary COVID-19 is. This morning my wife and I went grocery shopping during the senior shopping hours. Seeing the bare spaces on the shelves and the signs limiting some purchases bothered me. But we will get through this. It will be ugly at times but we will get through this.