Letter: Charter change needed

To the Editor:
Ridgefield’s Charter provides that residents who attend the town’s historical Annual Town and Budget Meeting (Town Meeting) can vote to reduce the town and/or school budgets. These budgets are developed over many months by town and school officials after extensive analysis and careful deliberation. Input and critiques by residents are encouraged at two school public hearings and one Board of Finance public hearing. At the conclusion of the budget process, about a week after the Town Meeting, there is a day-long machine-ballot referendum where all registered residents can vote to approve or disapprove either/both budgets.
Currently, the Town Meeting gives immense power to a very few residents who could severely disrupt the financial well-being of Ridgefield. This year’s Town Meeting clearly illustrates the potential problem. The meeting was attended by only 108 registered voters. There was a motion made, which was defeated, to reduce the school budget by more than $2 million. To put this in perspective, those 108 attendees represented well under 1% of the town’s 18,197 registered voters, and it would have required only 55 attendees to pass a motion to reduce the town or the school budget. Even if there was a groundswell of interest and many citizens decided to attend the Annual Town Meeting, there is no public building in town that can accommodate more than 5% of the voters. That building, the high school auditorium, has a capacity of only 895.
Ridgefield, it is time to modify the town’s Annual Town and Budget Meeting through a Charter revision that eliminates the ability to reduce budgets prior to the budget referendum.
Bill Davidson
Sunset Lane, May 14