UA-8412995-1 The Southport Globe: Pequot Library advocates want fund cut appealed. But who can do it?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Pequot Library advocates want fund cut appealed. But who can do it?

When the shock of the Board of Finance vote last week that eliminated $350,000 in 2013-14 funding for the Pequot Library wore off, advocates for restoring the town contribution to the privately run Southport institution began exploring the possibility of an appeal to the Representative Town Meeting. Under the town charter, any "town officer, board, commission, authority, committee or department of the town" can appeal a finance board budget reduction to the RTM in writing with the town clerk within 10 days after written notice of the finance board's vote has been received by the party making the appeal. The appeal would be heard at the RTM's annual budget meeting in May, with both the Board of Finance and the appealing party allowed to be heard on the merits of the cut by the legislative body. In order to uphold the appeal, it must receive a two-thirds vote of those RTM members present and voting. Town Attorney Stanton Lesser said he believes that the reduction to the Pequot Library can be appealed, even though the library is not a town agency nor is its leadership considered municipal officials even though the library has received town money for many years and it collaborates on programs with the Fairfield Public Library. Lesser said he is in the process of studying the charter provision, but said it appears that logically, if the money was proposed in the budget -- and it has been approved as such by the Board of Selectmen earlier last week -- the money's elimination can be appealed. "It comes down to a charter interpretation," Lesser said. However, he is still looking into who would have the standing to appeal the finance board's action.
The cut to the funds that amount to about one-third of the Pequot Library's annual budget was approved by a 5-4 vote by the Board of Finance, with those voting in favor of the reduction from both political parties. Finance board Vice Chairman Robert Bellitto Jr. made the motion to zero out the funding, as he did for town contributions to all other nonprofit agencies. Those joining in support of the Pequot funding cut were fellow Republican Chris DeWitt and Democrats Robert Stone, Ken Brachfeld and Catherine Albin. Backlash to that vote has come from both parties as well.
The day after the vote, RTM member Ann Stamler, D-5, submitted a letter to the Fairfield Citizen editor, decrying the decision. "In my five years considering budgets, I can only recall two other instances of completely eliminating a budget -- once for an entity that no longer existed, the Fairfield Arts Center, and once for the open space program, equally regrettable," Stamler wrote. READ MORE: http://www.fairfieldcitizenonline.com/news/article/Pequot-Library-advocates-want-fund-cut-appealed-4418760.php

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