Plymouth is the latest area town looking to modernize its approach to governing.
According to The Bristol Press, a public hearing will be held Thursday, Aug. 10, at 6:30 p.m., in Town Hall, on proposed charter revisions, including streamlining the budget approval process.
Mark Malley, commission chairman, presented a draft of changes to the council this week.
“Essentially what we’re saying is: if the proposed budget is not more than 3 percent up or down from the previous year’s approved budget, the council can adopt it. If it’s proposed to be 3 percent more up or down, then it has to go to one referendum. If it fails at referendum, then the council can adopt a budget, but once again it has to be within that 3 percent formula, up or down.”
We think this is a sensible change, given the very low turnout for budget referendums that we have seen in almost every town. We’re guessing that most people trust that their elected representatives will take a fiscally responsible course - and that, if they don’t, they can be voted out of office.
One way to solidify that confidence in government would be hiring a town manager, an idea that has also been mentioned. Such a leader would have a level of expertise and impartiality that elected representatives don’t.
The catch? Making the change would mean undertaking an “astronomical job” for a commission to have to rewrite the entire charter before asking voters if that’s what they want, Malley said.
One solution might be adding an informational question to the next town vote to sound out citizen sentiment. After all, November and municipal elections are not far away.