RUMFORD — People who made plans to vote Friday, Aug. 27, on the Board of Selectmen's third straight attempt to pass a Welfare Budget, can scrap them.
The vote's been canceled due to a town law oversight by town officials, Town Manager Carlo Puiia said early Wednesday evening.
“There is a provision in an ordinance that requires the Finance Committee to make a definite recommendation to voters at every annual and special town meeting relative to all articles in the warrant for such meetings involving appropriations and expenditure of monies,” Puiia said.
While reading up on town laws on Tuesday, Rumford moderator Kevin Saisi discovered the oversight and brought it to Puiia's attention on Wednesday, Puiia said.
It means that selectmen will have to re-start the process of holding an informational meeting on their $35,000 Welfare Budget, and then schedule another voting day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. to see if townspeople will approve it.
At town meeting balloting in June, a majority of voters defeated the board's first attempt to approve a $70,021 General Assistance budget. The board pared it to $60,000 and tried again last month, only to have that, too, defeated.
Puiia said that had voters OK'd last month's proposed budget, it could have been challenged when someone realized what Saisi discovered.
“It's not part of the Charter. It's an ordinance,” Puiia said. “So, knowing this, we must do what's right and reschedule it and have the Finance Committee meet (in public) and vote to make a recommendation prior to going to a secret-poll meeting.”
Selectmen have scheduled a special meeting for 8 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 28, in the municipal building conference room to set the new dates.
The oversight may also affect the court-ordered town meeting on Sept. 8 to debate Black Mountain ski resort's petition-initiated revote on town funding and balloting on Sept. 13, because that, too, involves an appropriation and town spending.
“I'm still waiting for a legal opinion on the petition, because that's not part of the budget cycle,” Puiia said.
To save the town money, Puiia said selectmen on Saturday could decide to have the Finance Committee meeting on Sept. 8 at the town meeting for the ski resort issue, and then tack the Welfare Budget vote onto the ski resort revote ballot on Sept. 13.
Otherwise, the board would have to keep the two votes separate.
But whether the Finance Committee recommendation on the Welfare Budget even makes it onto the ballot as a choice is also under legal review, because he isn't sure how to interpret town ordinances and the Rumford Charter, which sometimes contradict each other, Puiia said.
In other business, Puiia said he also learned Wednesday that townspeople can't vote in November to allocate two-thirds of the cable franchise fees to WVAC television station.
Selectman Greg Buccina made that motion at the board's Aug. 19 meeting, contingent on Puiia checking its legality.
To allow the vote means an ordinance change, which is something town law says can only happen at the June town meeting unless selectmen deem the matter a critical circumstance.
“I'd find it hard to believe that the board would find a critical circumstance exists for cable fees,” Puiia said. “So, we got a little bit ahead of ourselves.”