Monday, June 10, 2013

Bending Over – The Referendum Version


We don’t know how long you can hold the touching your toes position.  But don’t feel bad; we’re pretty sure we can’t even ‘assume the position,’ let along ‘hold the position.’

Personal considerations aside, we’re here to tell you that the almost certain outcome of tomorrow’s School Budget Referendum will have the effect of requiring you to “hold'” the pose for three years.

That’s because our elected betters, at the same time they enacted legislation calling for taxpayers to approve school budgets, thoughtfully added language that would allow voters to choose not to vote on the budget for the coming 3 years.  How’s that for a schizophrenic voter engagement policy?

Here’s the relevant statutory language.  Emphasis is ours.




Subchapter 4: FINANCING

§1486. Budget validation referendum

After January 31, 2008, the procedure for approval of the annual budget of a regional school unit must be in accordance with this section and section 1485. [2007, c. 240, Pt. XXXX, §13 (NEW).]

1. Budget validation.  Following development of the annual regional school unit budget and approval at a regional school unit budget meeting as provided in section 1485, a referendum must be held in the regional school unit as provided in this section to allow the voters to validate or reject the total budget adopted at the regional school unit budget meeting.

Every 3 years, the voters in a regional school unit shall consider continued use of the budget validation referendum process. The warrant at the budget validation referendum in the 3rd year following adoption or continuation of the referendum process must include an article by which the voters of the school administrative unit may indicate whether they wish to continue the process for another 3 years. The warrant for the referendum to validate the fiscal year 2010-11 budget is deemed the 3rd-year warrant. A vote to continue retains the process for 3 additional years. A vote to discontinue the process ends its use beginning with the following budget year and prohibits its reconsideration for at least 3 years.

An article to consider reinstatement of the budget validation referendum process may be placed on a warrant for a referendum vote by either a majority vote of the regional school unit board or a written petition filed with the regional school unit board by at least 10% of the number of voters voting in the last gubernatorial election in the municipalities in the school administrative unit. The regional school unit board shall place the article on the next scheduled warrant or an earlier one if determined appropriate by the regional school unit board. If adopted by the voters, the budget validation referendum process takes effect beginning in the next budget year or the following budget year if the adoption occurs less than 90 days before the start of the next budget year. Once approved by the voters, the budget validation referendum process may not be changed for 3 years.

Note this phraseology: '”prohibits its reconsideration for at least 3 years.”  We’re not the least bit clear on what THAT means, which was probably the intent of those who enacted it.  At the minimum, you probably have to be a lawyer, or worse, to understand it.  So here’s a shout out to Johnny Protocols: how about explaining this language in terms little people can understand, repulsive as the concept may be?

Not withstanding Councilor Richardson’s response, which we are sure will arrive post haste, we can shed some light on things.

As you should be well aware, our school establishment (and we mean that in the worst possible way) is trying to figure out how best to advance a $50 million or so school capital construction program, while, if you believe Board Member Rich Ellis, trying to ‘minimize’ the effect on property taxes.

That’s like deciding to replace two or three family vehicles with new ones, at the same time you’re totally redoing your kitchen and bathrooms, and hoping you can ‘minimize’ the effect on your family budget.

Now here’s the kidney punch.  If we had to approve the school budget each and every year, at the very least, voters would have to approve the budgets that include the capital project costs.  That’s not much consolation, since historically, voters turn out for these referenda at roughly the same rate they voluntarily show up for half-price root canals.

But if our prediction for tomorrow holds, future budgets including the capital project costs WILL NOT go to the voters for approval in the next three budget cycles.

You know what the big government types like to say: “this is what democracy looks like.”


Even if you’re looking at it upside down in between your legs.

If there’s anything you can count on in this position, it’s that you are about to meet some folks who would like nothing better than to have their way with you, leaving their footprints on your back.

And take the ball away.

“Hut, hut; whiskey tango foxtrot two fiver seven.  Hut!”

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