February 23, 2020
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Cheap Budgetary Tricks

Published May 01, 2019

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On April 4, my letter to the editor “Singular Budgetary Authority” stated that Clinton’s published budget was fictitious and did not reflect the will of the Board of Finance to include $556,200 in the Education capital budget to repair pipes at the Eliot School. Instead that amount was lumped into $1,271,200 of the Town Capital budget to be offset by an equal amount of appropriated surplus.

Instead of correcting the error, the Board of Finance, stripped out both the spending and appropriated surplus and voted to send this to a Town Meeting, completely circumventing the more appropriate referendum process. The first selectman promised not to do that and to give voters a chance to vote on this at referendum during the Board of Finance Meeting March 18. On April 10, the Board of Finance broke that promise.

Clinton’s charter permits amounts to be appropriated without a referendum if the amount doesn’t exceed five percent of the tax levy or $2.4 million. But that provision is usually reserved for emergency “rainy day” expenditures due to natural disasters or unanticipated and urgent contingencies. Clearly, the $1,271,200 was originally part of the legal budget notice dated March 18 and should have been appropriately submitted as part of the annual budget referendum.

There is no good excuse for circumventing the referendum process except for fear it would fail at referendum and that apathy and poor attendance at a town meeting has a better chance of slipping it through. So far, the Board of Selectmen has failed to set a date for this town meeting.

In the meantime, informed voters can show that they can’t be fooled by cheap budgetary tricks and vote “No” on both budgets on May 8.

Kirk Carr

Kirk Carr (R) serves as an alternate on the Board of Finance.