Groton Town Referendums & Taxation without Representation

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Groton Town Referendums - the need to rectify Taxation Without Representation

Posted on February 19, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Notes from the Old Noank Jail by Ed Johnson

Recently, we have been reading that the Groton Town Council is approaching the subject of making changes to the Town Charter. One change would allow Groton Taxpayers who own property in the Town but who reside out of the area to vote on Referendums. The right to do so was taken away, as reported, as of 2009; it needs to be reinstated.

People who rent in Groton have the right to vote on budget matters, such as Phase II, and send their children to our schools...yet they pay no property taxes. People who may own those properties, such as a house they are renting to a tenant, have no say in the budget process. This is an unfair arrangement.

So for the record, if a tenant lives in a house and is allowed to vote, the taxpayer- landlord should also be allowed to vote, even if the landlord lives elsewhere. Otherwise, the tenant can vote for an expensive school program and the landlord has to pick up the tab with no representation.

But there is another issue that is important to the Groton Taxpayer, and it needs to be corrected as well .We need to have a referendum annually, or at least provision for same, so that the Groton Taxpayers can vote directly on the Town Budget. We have needed this for a very long time because, in the past, the current form of government has allowed taxes to rise at a dramatic rate.

A Charter Revision Committee would have to be formed by the Council. At that committee, input can be made by petition. The present RTM & Council form of Government was supposed to eliminate the necessity and expense of having referendums. Let's look at what happened. The Council and RTM, despite best efforts by many people, have still not been able to contain the constant increases.

But...Stonington HAS stopped them. They use a referendum system and the taxpayers have direct input.

The previous Groton commission turned down a very reasonable proposal whereby if the forthcoming Groton Town Budget from the Council & RTM exceeded a certain percentage above the Cost of Living Index, it would trigger a Town Referendum. Otherwise, there would be no need to spend the money for a referendum.

This latest development of looking at an old subject gives us a new opportunity here. Let me stress something. Several local taxpayers were members of the FFAE PAC and fought hard to publicize the problems with Phase II of the Groton School system. And both the Council and the RTM didn't want to restrict the public from voting on this issue.

Look what happened. The public voted down Phase II in a landslide 3 to 1 margin. Part of that was due to the efforts of the FFAE PAC. But I believe the major reason was the public opinion on the issue....and by voting, the Taxpayers got to express their feelings directly.

We need to give Groton Taxpayers the right to vote on the Town Budgets directly. We have needed this for a very long time. And I speak as one who has publicly spoken in favor of increasing police presence in our schools which, if approved, is going to cost money. The taxpayers have a right to vote on this, too.