A Conversation on G.B.’s Town Budget Process & Citizen Petitions
On a recent edition of 'Let's Talk,' guest host Great Barrington Town Manager, Jennifer Tabikan interviewed Great Barrington Select Board member, Ed Abrahams. Their discussion focused on town government and two areas in particular, the budget process and citizen petition.
Below is a transcription of Jennifer and Ed's conversation beginning with the budget process.
Ed: In doing the budget process, we have hyperdemocracy. The Select Board is really not that powerful and the budget is set and approved by all of the voters. The process is beginning and I really urge anyone, especially if you think taxes are too high (like most of us) get involved in the process and see where the money is going.
Jennifer: The first budget meeting kickoff (all meetings are open to the public and they start in a workshop format) is on Monday, January 29th and then there is a Select Board meeting the next Monday (February 5th). You get an opportunity to know all of the ins and outs about how all of the departments work and where your tax payer money goes.
Ed: The way the process works is there are a number of joint meetings with the finance committee and the Select Board at which the Town Manager and the rest of the town staff presents the proposed budget for each department. Over these series of meetings we go through each department and it ends with a public hearing where it's presented to everybody. Everyone can weigh in on suggestions and proposed changes. So when it gets to town meeting on May 7th, it's pretty set and that's really the time to vote YES or NO. So I urge you to get involved in the process early.
Ed: The other important part of the process is citizen petitions. Any citizen can put something on the town warrant to vote on at town meeting. Every year there are a few issues that one citizen feels is important and if they get 10 valid signatures they will get a proposal before the entire town to vote on to see if the majority agrees. So in order to do that you go to the town clerk's office and there's a one week period to pick up nomination papers and file them (January 22nd - 31st). So if you think there is something the town should be doing, that's the process. CitizenSpeak which occurs after every Select Board meeting happened through the citizen petition process.
To learn more about how to get involved in town government, a schedule of town meeting dates and more visit https://www.townofgb.org/