The criterion for bond purchases will be increased from 60% to 2/3. Some years ago the Legislature recognized that approval of bond issues came to a halt in towns that implemented the SB2 form of government. They therefore reduced the classical 2/3 requirement to 60% so as to allow a more reasonable opportunity to use this method of funding major municipal investments. Merrimack town government has had only one bond issue approved in the 9 years of SB2 governance, showing that 60% does not lead to wild spending by the voters. The arbitrary increase to 67% is unjustified.
Yes, the line to meet for Bonds increases from 3/5ths to 2/3rds. History over the last 8 years shows there were 11 bond votes. Only the Horse Hill (Greens Pond) bond passed the vote of the Voters. Only 1 in 11 attempts over the last 8 years. That bond in 2002 required 3/5ths (60%) to pass. It actually passed by just more than 2/3rds at 67%.
When the Voters want a bond to pass, they pass it by more than 2/3rds even if only 3/5ths are required.
Changing the threshold does not change the reality of the Voters. This change actually puts more "power" in the hands of the Voters as it forces the governing board to explain and convince a larger portion of the Voters before they can start raising our taxes to meet a perceived need.
I believe the Charter provides more "power" for the Voters.
Let me present a few ways the Charter does this that have not been mentioned:
1.) The Charter requires the Council to provide a time at each regular meeting for the Council to hear concerns of the Voters. While our current BOS has this policy, it is not required.
2.) The Charter requires a broader Public Hearing notice procedure. This means our Council has to be more open to the Public and has to work harder to ensure the Voters know what they are doing.
3.) The Charter requires a Public Hearing process for the when the Budget is being developed.
4.) The Charter requires the Council to hold a Public Hearing and take some action if 50 registered Voters sign a petition to have something done in our Town. This is a new “power” we do not have now. There is currently no mechanism to force a Public Hearing and action by the Governing Board.
5.) The Charter provides Initiative and Referendum processes that requires a Public Hearing process and Town Vote if the Council does not agree. This means the Voters decide if far fewer than the majority of the registered voters in this Town (currently greater than 15000) want action.
Note: The Voters do not have to wait for the annual Town Meeting to get action for 4 and 5 above.