In a letter to Town Moderator David Coombs, Advisory Committee chairman John Butler said the committee has decided to prepare two sets of budgets for Town Meeting this year instead of the usual one.
One set of budgets will be the recommended set which likely will be level service budgets. Since level service budgets typically represent some cost increase (because it costs more to provide the same level of service from year to year), the committee will also prepare a set of budgets that represent a zero tax increase.
The zero tax increase budgets will have “widespread but small service reductions,” said Butler. At Town Meeting, citizens would have the option to adopt some or all of the zero tax increase budgets.
The two sets of budgets are intended to help citizens feel more enfranchised at Town Meeting by giving them options. “I have gotten the comment from [Town Meeting] voters that they feel disenfranchised by the current process, that 98% of the numbers are agreed upon by the front table and they don’t know any change they can make that would be ‘responsible’ even if they want a change,” Butler said.
The committe also is creating the zero tax increase budgets in anticipation of voter concerns about the economy.
Butler acknowledged that having two sets of budgets presents procedural challenges for Town Meeting and may slow things down. “On balance, however, members felt that if people want change in our kind of democracy it is a bit slower and messier, and we would need to tolerate that.”
Read the full email on the Advisory Committee’s website.