Groton voters reject charter changes

Groton — Groton residents decisively rejected wide-ranging changes to the town charter, voting no on the ballot question in all seven districts for an unofficial tally of 6,813 to 5,348.

The proposed changes involved allowing residents to vote on the budget in an annual referendum, eliminating the Representative Town Meeting, implementing a seven-person board of finance to advise the Town Council, and extending Town Council terms from two to four years.

RTM members excitedly gathered for celebratory selfies at Groton Democratic Headquarters after the votes came in. Jean-Claude Ambroise, chairman of the Vote No Charter Revisions PAC, said he is "hoping that the RTM can take this message from the voters and educate them about what the value of that body is," and to do more community outreach.

In the past few months, dozens of "Vote Yes" and "Vote No" signs dotted lawns throughout Groton, while each group held multiple information sessions at the Groton Public Library.

But if voters weren't paying attention or doing their own research, they likely would have been stumped by the wording of the question: "Shall the Town of Groton Charter be amended and revised, all as set forth in the November 2017 final report of the 2016 Town of Groton Charter Revision Commission, and as on file with the Town Clerk?"

Those in favor of the revision argued that residents should have the right to vote directly on the budget, and that it's time for a change in Groton.

Those against the revision argued that a board of finance will have no teeth, while the RTM provides checks and balances on the Town Council through its ability to lower budget line items and veto ordinances. They also expressed concern that there's no requirement for minimum voter turnout in the referendum, and that holding a budget referendum in May would cost about $20,000.

Each camp found support among Democrats and Republicans.

Scott Aument, a former Charter Revision Commission member who was vocal in his support for the changes, thought both sides were engaged but expressed disappointment that Superintendent Michael Graner spoke out against the changes instead of remaining neutral. He is hopeful that in the future, the town can achieve some of the individual changes the referendum put forth.

e.moser@theday.com

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