2008-05-29 / Editorial

Voters get their say at town FTM

• EDITORIAL •

On Monday evening at the Lawn Avenue School islanders will have an opportunity to participate in one of our more cherished New England traditions - the Financial Town Meeting.

Commonly called the FTM, the gathering is required by our town charter. Once a year the Town Council and the School Committee must submit their annual budgets to the town's registered voters. That means that you the voter will get the final say on how our town will spend the tax money it collects from us on the property that we own.

For the coming fiscal year the municipal budget is proposed at $8,466,312. That figure represents a 3.9 percent increase over the previous budget.

The proposed school budget is $12,264,907, an increase of 5.6 percent over the current year. If you've been following the news items and letters in the Jamestown Press this spring you know there has been some public frustration about rising school expenses as the student enrollment dwindles. We are paying more for less. Expect some debate over the proposed school budget.

It has been argued that the Financial Town Meeting has become an anachronism and is unnecessary. State law limits the town to a 5.25 percent property tax increase. If the tax increase is greater than that, the town must seek approval from the state legislature.

Islanders seem satisfied with the way their money is being spent. Only 70 people out of the 4,500 registered Jamestown voters attended last year's FTM. The meeting took 30 minutes. But it wasn't all that long ago - in the early 1990s - that about 700 people attended the FTM. People had quite a bit to say and the meeting lasted for two nights.

Why do we still need the FTM? We could easily abolish the FTM. In doing so we would lose that small connection to our colonial heritage. I think people want to believe they can still stand up and shout about their taxes if necessary.

The FTM brings out the Yankee in all of us. Maybe we should make the meeting a bit more social as it's a great time to visit with our neighbors. Perhaps next year we could hold a community potluck along with the FTM. Baked beans, anyone?

- Jeff McDonough

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