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Stonington - The effort to change the town charter to ensure that the Board of Finance elections are always contested got a boost Monday with the launching of a extensive website promoting the change.
Found at www.changethecharter.com, the homepage states that while the Board of Finance controls all municipal spending and sets the tax rate "its members don't stand in contested elections."
This is because the charter calls for the Democratic and Republican town committees to put forth one candidate each for the two six-year terms that come up for election every two years. Voters are asked to choose one of the two but both are elected. This means the candidates run unopposed unless there is third-party candidate.
"In Stonington, the six members of the Board of Finance are hand-picked by the 39 members of the Democratic Town Committee and the 33 members of the Republican Town Committee, and they almost never run in a contested election," states the website.
"They are effectively accountable to no one," states another section.
Supporters of change are trying to collect the signatures of 1,250 registered voters needed to force the Board of Selectmen to appoint a commission to examine the charter and recommend changes to the way the finance board is selected. The effort began a few weeks ago after school budget supporters watched the finance board cut $525,0000 from the $1 million increase in the proposed 2014-15 school budget. Their anger increased last week when the board refused to restore the money and let residents vote on the budget after more than 500 people packed a hearing and asked that the money be restored. Some residents then began asking how they could replace the board members but we're surprised to discover there is not a contested election unless an unaffiliated candidate joins the race.
"Stonington Deserves Democracy" states bold lettering on the homepage.