Charter Review Committee Will Recommend Expanding Budget Committee
At its meeting on April 11, 2022, the Charter Review Committee discussed some key issues with regard to the budget, namely:
- Should the City continue to have a Budget Committee, or eliminate it?
- If the Budget Committee is retained, what should its makeup be?
- Should the public’s right to vote on the Municipal side of the budget be reinstated?
After lengthy discussion, a majority of the Committee members expressed support for retaining the Budget Committee, but with some changes. The Budget Committee is currently composed of three City Councilors and four members of the public, who are appointed by the City Council. All were agreed that some members of the School Committee should be included as well. The Charter Review Committee will recommend that the Budget Committee be expanded from seven members to nine, and be composed of two City Councilors, two members of the School Committee, and up to five members of the public.
The phrase “up to” reflects the fact that it is difficult to get members of the public to volunteer for these positions. This year, the City had only four applicants to fill four seats on the Budget Committee. Under this new proposal, if only three or four citizens apply, only three will be appointed so the Committee would still have an odd number of members.
There was discussion about whether the public members should be elected rather than appointed. The majority is leaning toward appointment, feeling that it is even more difficult to get people to run for office than to apply for appointment.
Two changes are also being proposed to help the Budget Committee work smarter and more efficiently: three-year terms for the public members, instead of the current one-year terms; and an earlier start to the budget review process. These changes should enable members to get a better grip on the complexities of the budget in the short time frame available.
The Charter Review Committee will also recommend the Charter specify that the Chair and Vice Chair of the Budget Committee be members of the public, rather than elected officials.
A stipend for Budget Committee members was also discussed, but no decision was made.
The Charter Review Committee also did not come to a decision on whether to recommend reinstating the referendum vote on the municipal budget. The vote was eliminated beginning in 2018 due to low voter turnout, triggered by a “sunset clause” in Section 704 of the Charter, which states that this happens automatically if the average voter participation in the Budget Validation Referendum over a five-year period is less than 25% of voter participation in the most recent gubernatorial election.
The Charter Review Committee has a few weeks off before discussion continues at its next meeting on May 2. If you would like to have input on these items, or anything else in the City Charter, you can email the Committee here. You may also write to the Committee in care of the City Manager’s Office, 919 Main St., Sanford ME 04073.
The Charter Review Committee’s recommendations will go the City Council for approval before voters get their say in November.
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