Livermore Falls residents get chance to decide if they favor voting by secret ballot

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LIVERMORE FALLS — Selectmen plan to ask voters in June if they would like to continue the practice of voting on the annual budget by secret ballot at the polls.

Selectmen adopted the referendum-style voting in December 2006 after an executive session. Selectmen reaffirmed that vote in March 2007. The first referendum vote was held in June of that year.

Some people raised concerns back then and on Tuesday night during a public hearing if the selectmen had the authority to change the voting method.

Current Town Manager Jim Chaousis said legal counsel said that the Board of Selectmen electing referendum voting is well within their rights. Prior to 2007, the town held open-style town meetings where voters gathered and raised their hands or voiced their vote.

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The people can either support candidates that support their views, adopt a charter or petition the Board of Selectmen if they do not share the opinions of the board, Chaousis said.

According to the town’s counsel, Kristin Collins, “The Selectmen have sole authority (absent a charter) to direct the method of voting on each issue. I do not think the policy the board adopted was illegal, since it addressed an area over which selectmen have control. However, I am doubtful that it would bind future boards when preparing warrants for future meetings. Each warrant would present a new opportunity to consider what method of voting should be used, and each Board of Selectmen would be able to make its own decision on how to address the issues on that warrant“

Selectmen agreed to gauge voters’ opinions to see which they favored during the annual town meeting. Selectmen are split on the voting process.

Residents had voted in 2007 by nearly a 2:1 margin to continue to vote by referendum, Chaousis said.

However, in a straw poll taken by secret ballot prior to 2006, voters opposed going to referendum.

Resident Eric Rodzen pointed out Tuesday that even in an open-style town meeting, voters can elect to vote by secret ballot on articles.

Residents also discussed on Tuesday a proposed $2 million budget they will vote on in June. The Board of Selectmen’s proposed $2.18 million budget and the RSU school board’s proposed $9.1 million, plus the town’s share of county taxes is estimated to carry a $22.30 tax rate on $1,000 worth of value.

The Budget Committee’s proposed budget of $2.01 million and the other factors would carry a $21.13 tax rate per $1,000 of property valuation.

The current tax rate is $21.

dperry@sunjournal.com

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