Thursday, April 2, 2009

BREAKING: BOF May Have to Revisit Budget

Finance Director Ray Jankowski may know today if there will be a substantial cut in ECS (Education Cost Sharing) funds from the State. If this happens, the BOF may have to call a special meeting to revisit the Budget. Ray brought this up last night.

Here's an example. Let's say that the State's financial woes are really bad and the ECS amount is reduced by $1.5 million. This loss of revenue would result in a new tax increase of 3.66% if substantial cuts -- not reductions in requested increases -- aren't made.

Procedurally, this raises some interesting issues. First, I believe that the BOF has the right to revisit the Budget so long as it does so within the 15 day period that the Charter provides it must act. If it does call a Meeting, someone who voted with the majority last night must make a motion to renew, not a motion for reconsideration.

Second, in the unlikely event that the BOF does not hold a special meeting, the Charter mandates that the Budget go to a Town Meeting and, as also required by Charter, to Referendum thereafter. But what can be done, if anything, to stop that process since the Budget that would go to the Town Meeting and the Referendum is known to be deficient?

Third, what happens if the Town Meeting takes place and the Budget is declared a nullity but the BOF's 15 days have expired. Does the BOF still have jurisdiction to consider any Budget?

Finally, I must point out that every budget, every year, is not more than a snapshot of a point in time and really just a guessing game when it comes to revenue. That's why they are called "anticipated" revenues. At what point does a Budget lose such relationship to reality that it has to be adjusted before it goes to the voters? When revenues are down $3? $3,000? $300,000?

Must a municipality warn voters at the polls about this, assume they already know or just avoid all the above by sending the Budget along and later sending out a supplemental tax bill if necessary?

All good questions for the Town Attorney.

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