Borough board to decide future of Charter proposals

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The Charter Revision Commission has approved its final report, which will go before the Board of Mayor and Burgesses in October. FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — The fate of proposed Town Charter changes now rests with the Board of Mayor and Burgesses.

After months of debate, the Charter Revision Commission has approved sending its final report to the board. However, the commission could not reach a consensus on two of the more significant proposals.

The commission split 4-4 on whether the borough should switch to a town manager form of government, said Andrew Bottinick, chair of the commission.

The proposal would eliminate the mayor position as it is currently known in Naugatuck. In its place, a town manager would be hired to run the day-to-day operations of the borough.

Under a town manager form of government, the mayor will remain a borough official. But, the mayor would be more akin to a burgess, and the position’s salary would be reduced to a stipend similar to that a burgess receives. The Board of Mayor and Burgesses would remain the town’s legislative and policy-making body.

The issue has been the most divisive one for commission members and with Burgess Mike Ciacciarella absent from the commission’s meeting on Tuesday, the vote was a draw.

At a deadlock, Bottinick explained, the commission decided to send a duel proposal to the board, of either changing to a town manager or keeping the current mayor form of government.

“Since we had an absolute dead heat on that we decided to go with the dual proposal,” he said.

The commission also couldn’t come to an agreement on a proposal to revise the borough’s budget referendum process.

The commission’s draft report included a revision that would make budget referendums automatic. Under the original proposal, up to five referendums could be held, and if the budget failed all five times it would be automatically reduced by 2 percent.

But, after revising its draft report the commission ultimately did away with its original referendum plan in favor of sending three proposals to the board, Bottinick said.

The proposals are to eliminate budget referendums entirely, keep the current referendum process in place or to modify the current referendum process.

The modified referendum proposal is similar to the current process. Residents would still need to petition to force the first budget referendum. However, the number of signatures needed would be lowered to 10 percent of registered voters instead of 15 percent. The minimum voter turnout of 8 percent for the referendum to count would remain under the plan.

If the first budget referendum failed, up to two more referendums would be held automatically, under the proposal. There is no automatic reduction included in the proposal if all three referendums fail.

Bottinick said the feeling among the commission was that having an automatic reduction of say 2 percent would be too onerous on the town.

The commission agreed to send the five remaining proposals to the board without dissention. The remaining recommended changes include switching the municipal elections from May to November, eliminating some outdated sections of the Charter, and eliminating the bidding process language from the Charter so that it can be rewritten as an ordinance to give officials more flexibility.

The report also includes a proposal to extend the mayor’s term to four years. The change, if approved, would take effect after the 2013 election.

The last recommendation in the report is to eliminate the selectman and treasurer positions along with eliminating the tax collector and the town clerk positions as elected positions. Instead, the positions would be filled through a hiring process. The positions would not be part of a union, Bottinick said.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses is expected to discuss the report during its Oct. 4 meeting. The report is strictly advisory and the board can approve it, do nothing with it or send it back to the commission to be reworked. Any proposals the board approves will go to a referendum.

No matter how the board receives the report, Bottinick was pleased with the commission’s work. He said everyone on the commission brought something different to the table and did a great job.

“It was a well balanced and I think it was a very effective group,” he said.