2007-06-07 / Editorial

One meeting we can do without

What if there were a Financial Town Meeting and no one came?

Only 70 people out of the 4,580 registered Jamestown voters - about 1.5 percent - attended the Financial Town Meeting held Monday evening at the Lawn Avenue School. There was little discussion and the annual budget was approved in about 30 minutes.

That leads one to wonder if the Financial Town Meeting is necessary for Jamestown or if it has become a quaint New England anachronism.

We already have plenty of opportunity for public input. The Town Council this year conducted three exhaustive public workshops on the proposed budget. If someone had something to say, they had a chance to say it.

Tax-payer safeguards are in place, too. By law the town is limited to no more than a 5.25 property tax increase without asking for approval from the state legislature. No chance of a hefty property tax hike slipping by unnoticed.

Voters also have the upper hand. The entire Town Council stands for election every two years. In reality the council is only responsible for two budget cycles.

Finally, permission for town indebtedness, such as a bond issue to build a new highway garage, requires voter approval at a town election.

We are probably not ready to abolish the Financial Town Meeting though. The meeting heralds those early days when the colonists gathered to make collective decisions about the welfare of their communities.

Many of us remember when more than 700 people attended the Financial Town Meeting in the early 1990s and it took two nights to complete the business. People had lots to say about the town budget back then.

We could do away with the Financial Town meeting. But as independent Yankees, we like to believe we can meet once a year to voice our opinions on property taxes if needed.

- Jeff McDonough

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