Groton Charter changes would improve fiscal efficiency

When taken together the Groton Charter Revision Commission recommendations provide a very balanced approach that recognizes and strategically places the significant roles that citizens, elected leaders and professional staff contribute to efficient and effective town government. The recommendations specifically accomplish the following.

• Maintain the Town Council/Town Manager form of government. Town Council, sets policy for the town and, elected at-large, stays at nine members. Town manager executes policy and runs the town.

• Provides for a transparent annual budget development process, including a formal setting for citizen input.

• Puts significant emphasis on budget guidance prior to budget development.

• Staff personnel maintain ownership of budget development and management of resources.

• Puts the Town Council as the final approver of the annual recommended budget.

• Gives resident voters a voice in final budget approval.

• Provides for a bifurcated budget, one for town government, one for education.

• Provides for a Board of Finance, a stand-alone elected body, to support the Town Council in financial matters and keep the public informed.

The three big recommendations would eliminate the RTM, implement an Annual Budget Referendum, and create a Board of Finance.

Eliminate the RTM

The RTM was included on the list of items the Town Council asked the Charter Revision Commission to look at. The commission recommended eliminating the RTM because it does not function in a proactive way, it performs its duties after the town manager and council have acted.

It would be different if the RTM committee work was shared with the Town Council in a formal way so it could be applied to decision making up front, but it isn’t.

Second is redundancy. There is almost complete redundancy between the RTM and the Town Council. Having both bodies go through the budget using identical processes adds very little value while duplicating the use of staff resources.

Third, Groton is the only town in Connecticut, and perhaps anywhere, that has a Town Council and an RTM.

Institute an Annual Budget Referendum

An Annual Budget Referendum (ABR) gives voters the final say one way or the other. The ABR recommendation has no triggering mechanism, requires no minimum voter turnout or limit on the number of votes necessary to approve a budget.

It provides for citizen feedback, asking "no" voters to answer if the proposed budget is too high or too low?

This requirement for mandatory citizen approval is an important factor in guiding the separation of the "wants" from the "needs" in the early stages of budget development.

Board of Finance

A Board of Finance (BOF) would provide Groton with an elected body solely dedicated to the deep understanding of the town’s financial matters and able to translate that understanding to the Town Council and the public. The Town Council is not able to adequately perform this function due to the significant legislative workload placed on it. Simply put, the Town Council doesn’t have the time to do what a Board of Finance would do.

Its monthly meetings will be open to the public and will provide a forum for bringing transparency to the town's financial status.

It will create and maintain a five-year financial forecast for the town.

The statement from which this was abridged was endorsed by Charter Revision Commission members Scott Aument, Kathy Chase, Rosanne Kotowski and Daniel Mello. Jenn White also expressed her endorsement with an exception for the commission’s recommendation for an Annual Budget Referendum, which she does not endorse.

 

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