Lincoln voters urged to OK local Questions 8-13

Lincoln voters urged to OK local Questions 8-13

As president of the Lincoln Town Council, I would urge you to vote yes on local ballot questions 8-13 on the Nov. 4 ballot. A positive vote on the proposed Charter changes will provide clarity, improve oversight, ensure openness, and improve transparency in our local government.

Questions 8, 9, and 10 pertain to the functioning of the Water Commission. These questions were proposed as a collaborative effort between the Town Council and members of the Water Commission; receiving the support of Chairman Fred Conklin, George Hadley, and Rene Lapierre.

A positive vote for Question 8 will clarify the Water Commission's duties and responsibilities as currently prescribed in the Town Charter. Approval of Question 8 will only serve to clearly designate the Water Commission as a department of the town to avoid costly duplication of financial and legal expenditures. Upon passage, the Water Department will continue to remain under the jurisdiction and management of the elected Water Commissioners.

A positive vote for Question 9 would limit the Water Commission's legal expenditures to those pertaining to the acquisition of water and the operation of department. This would ensure that all other legal matters or opinions representing the interest of the town would be assigned to the Town Solicitor as currently prescribed by Charter.

A positive vote on Question 10 would bring the Water Department's purchases in conformance with current state law regarding competitive bidding, ordinances contained within the Town Charter, and Town Council approval of certain purchases above prescribed limits.

The next three questions address our Financial Town Meeting. Currently the town is fortunate to have a Budget Board which works tirelessly from February to May on the development of our town's budget. They analyze the town administrator's recommended budget, performing due diligence, receive input from departments, citizens, and concerned groups, and recommend a budget that is fair and fiscally sound.

While I continue to support the annual Financial Town Meeting as a democratic process in giving final approval to our budget and subsequent tax levy, it is a process that has raised several concerns in the past decade related to low attendance and a more complex budget process. Our current town budget for school and municipal services is just under $79 million dollars. Currently Lincoln has over 16,000 eligible voters, yet only 100 voters are needed to constitute a quorum and approve a budget. Also, only 100 qualified voters are required to submit a petition 15 days prior to the annual financial meeting to increase or decrease the Budget Board's recommendation by more than 10 percent in any one department.

A positive vote on Question 11 would provide that if a Financial Town Meeting failed to obtain a quorum of 100 voters, the Budget Board's recommended budget would then become final. A positive vote on Question 12 would require a petition contain 500 qualified voters to increase or decrease the Budget Board's recommendation in excess of 10 percent or $80,000 during a Financial Town Meeting.

Lastly, I would urge you to vote yes on Question 13. Our Charter currently provides for the town moderator, a position elected solely at a Financial Town Meeting, to appoint member's to the Budget Board in the event of an unfilled elective position or vacant seat on the board.

In addition to low attendance at the Financial Town Meeting, there has been a ongoing decline in qualified residents seeking election to the Budget Board and there has been a significant increase in appointments by the town moderator. While Question 13 is not intended to question the ethical or responsible judgment of the current moderator, it is intended to provide a safeguard that members of an elected Budget Board are appointed, when need be, by an open, transparent, and representative process by Town Council members that were elected to represent all the residents and taxpayers of Lincoln.

In closing, I highly encourage all the voters in Lincoln to approve local Questions 8-13 on this year's ballot. Voting yes on these Charter changes provide will provide proper safeguards and oversight are contained within our Town Charter and ensure our town on continues on a positive track.

Keith E. Macksoud

Lincoln

Macksoud is president of the Lincoln Town Council