New England colonial government was often a Town Meeting held in the local church. The open style gave the citizens an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns on issues of the day. This Saturday at 10:00 a.m., citizens of Coventry will hold their Annual Town Meeting in the Veterans Auditorium at Coventry High School.
Anyone that has gone to past Annual Town Meetings knows that the issue of the day is the budget and according to the Town website description, “a wonderful opportunity to receive first hand information from your town officials and offer your suggestions and commentary about the services and expenditures that affect the lives of every citizen of our town.” So what can you expect at a Town Meeting?
If the past is any indication unpredictability is perhaps the best answer. Some meetings have been rather quiet affairs with few questions and little controversy others have seen proposals to cut the proposed budget and sometimes even uproar over vocal opinions ensues. So how does this all work?
The meeting elects a moderator from the audience, a presentation is generally given on the budget and citizens are allowed to come forward and ask questions or make comments. The Town website poses two questions to consider in formulating some remarks, “Which direction would you like to see your community go? What services are most important to you and your family?”
This year there has been limited comment or controversy during the budget formulation with perhaps the most discussion before the Town Council being about the request for an additional police officer, which was rejected. This is an opportunity, the time and the place, to listen and hear what priorities were placed above public safety in rejecting this need.
While some residents seem to automatically accept a budget on good faith, lack of attention by the public can lead to excess monies and higher taxes being built into the budget. Last year the word on the Board of Education budget was “bare bones” and yet we found out during the year that extra was built into the health insurance line item. There was so much extra available in that budget that when the bill for over $300,000 dollars came in for snow removal it was not a financial problem. Everyone wants to support educational spending but nobody wants to see excess fat hidden within a budget.
Are you planning to attend the meeting? What are your concerns? Are you happy with a tax increase? Are you planning to vote for the budget? Is there something you want to ask about the budget or the priorities? You may comment here on the Opining Quill by clicking on the “comment” link in the box below this entry.