What is a Referendum?
It’s hard to forget the infamous Tent Meeting of the summer of 2006, the resulting law suit, and ultimate resolution. During that process many residents felt disenfranchised from the vote, having to work that Saturday morning or having existing vacation plans. Led by Sal and Chris Carceller, the residents voted to change the Town Charter calling for an all day referendum vote. Today, if 10% of the electorate (roughly 1,500 registered voters) petition the Canvasser, an all day election will be called.
Why would we call for a Referendum Vote?
We do not believe that the Town Council and the School Committee will come to an agreement on a Schools budget for FY2011. In order to adequately fund the schools this Town Council, in our opinion, would have to exceed the “Tax Cap”. We do not believe a Super Majority (6 of 7 Councilors) will agree to exceed. That means the Schools face a possible deficit of over $1 Million. This leaves the School Committee two options: go back to Court (as it did in 2006) or seek support through a Referendum Question.
I support the Schools, where do I sign?
Were you to support calling a Referendum, signature papers could not be available before July 27th, the day after the Town Council’s final budget vote. The Town Charter provides for the Canvasser to prepare Referendum Petitions as of the 27th, and gives proponents 14 days to obtain signature from 10% of the electorate. So, this is no easy task!
OK, then what is the plan?
We are hopeful to get the vast majority of our signatures on Thursday, July 29th and Friday, July 30th on Sign & Drive venues. We will have signature stations at each school in the AM and PM commuting hours. We will try to make it as easy as possible – it literally is a signature and your address. Stay tuned… Information can be found at www.sosportsmouth.com.
We will then begin a canvassing campaign to get the remaining signatures.
What would the Referendum Question be?
It is too early to be specific, but it looks like we will seek funding for the School at 1.5% greater than their FY2010 allocation. This is the figure the School Committee’s Finance Sub-Committee brought to a June Town Council Hearing, and what we believe to be the School’s “bottom-line”. That would fund the Schools for FY2011 at $36,023,601. This would cause a tax increase to the average property tax payer ($350,000) of a little more than $100 per year or $8 and change per month.