Last fall Waitsfield Select Board held a public hearing on a plan to ask voters to adopt a new charter that centralizes more power in the hands of the select board while removing that power from the voters.
In the fall, the plan was to bring this charter change to voters at the November general election, but due to an error in a warning date, the issue got postponed to Town Meeting this March.
The changes envisioned in the charter would remove from voters their constitutional authority to elect their town clerk and town treasurer. That authority would be vested in the select board instead.
The reasoning from the select board is that the change is needed so that when the town's budgeting committee is preparing the annual budget, the select board and committee can require the town treasurer to do certain tasks in a certain time frame.
Maybe there is a better way to handle the need for budgeting documentation than what many may see as a power grab by the town.
Vermont statutes separate town clerks and treasurers from select board authority for a reason. The statute allows voters to elect these two town officers for a reason.
Town clerks certify elections; they need to be independent of the town's authority. Town treasurers balance the books and the budget. Should they really be subject to select board authority?
To get out of complying with this statute, towns must convince voters to adopt the charter and then petition the Legislature to have its new governance model approved.
Waitsfield and its voters need to think long and hard about this change. Is it necessary? Is the current system broken? What are they really trying to accomplish?
We should all pay careful attention when some of our citizen authority is being usurped.