The 2023 budget is an anomaly for many reasons. First, it proposed a nearly 5% increase in the mil rate. Second, it generated zero negative feedback in meeting after meeting of the Boards of Education, Finance and Selectmen. At the Budget Hearing on April 24, we heard five comments in favor of the budget as proposed. No comments against.
By email and snail mail, this budget also generated zero negative comments. In fact, the boards received hardly any comments at all until the referendum. Then the budget failed by a margin of 3 to 2 (214 for; 332 against).
But that’s not the end of Canton’s 2023 budget story.
This year’s budget passed because fewer than 10% of the voters cast a ballot in the referendum. This rule, enshrined in the Town Charter, was put in place to ensure that the Town would have a budget if a small number of voters cast ballots. The rule stems from chronically low turnout at the annual Town Budget Meeting where only 150 voters were required to pass or defeat a budget.
This year, we surpassed 150 votes. In fact, a total of 546 voters cast ballots this year – up from 286 in 2022. But it did not reach 776 ballots or 10% of the electorate. It’s not a great result.
If Canton voters want a different outcome in a future referendum, at least one of the following needs to happen:
1. More people need to vote;
2. The Town Charter needs to change, or
3. More people need to speak up at budget meetings.
The bottom line: Democracy works when we participate. We cannot expect that someone else will read our minds. We need to hear from you.