Every Bethel resident can help shape Bethel’s future by participating in the budget process!
You may not realize it, but Bethel’s budget is shaped through community input and voted on by Bethel residents. This is sometimes referred to as a “Town Meeting” form of government, which is unique to the New England states. Do you want to have a say in the future of our town? Get involved! Here are the three important dates where you can have a say. Participation in all three events is critical:
- Monday, March 22nd, 7:00pm: Public Hearing on the budget. This is where the public can comment on the budget as initially proposed by the Board of Finance (“BOF”). Due to CoVID restrictions, the Public Hearing will be via Zoom (the Zoom Meeting link and related materials can be found on the Town by clicking here). After the Public Hearing, the BOF will consider comments made by members of the public and will decide what budget should be presented at the Annual Town Meeting.
- Monday, April 5th: Annual Town Meeting. This is a meeting where those Bethel taxpayers who are present can vote on both whether to reduce the BOF proposed budget (the proposal cannot be increased) and whether to send the BOF proposed budget to Town Referendum. As residents come into the venue, members of the Town Registrars’ team will check identification to confirm eligibility to vote at the Annual Town Meeting. If the majority of Bethel taxpayers present agree, the Budget moves on to a vote in a Town Referendum. If not, it goes back to the BOF to make changes.
- Tuesday, April 20th: Town Referendum. This is where the town votes on a budget. Residents will vote in their regular polling places. If the budget passes, it goes into effect when the new fiscal year begins (i.e., July 1, 2021). If not, it goes back to the Board of Finance to make changes. For more information on voting districts and polling places in Bethel, visit our “Voter Info” page.
You can view the proposed 2021-2022 budget here.
As you think about how you will vote on the budget, here are some items to consider:
- You will have the opportunity to vote both on the town budget AND the school budget. Often both budgets pass, but sometimes one passes and the other doesn’t, in which case the BOF will make changes to the budget that failed. That budget will again go through the Annual Town Meeting and Town Referendum process.
- It’s important to know that parts of the town budget actually go to support our schools. If part of what motivates you to get involved in the budget process is wanting to support our schools, know that both parts of the budget are important for the functioning of our school system. For example, the cost of utilities, insurance and School Resource Officers are all included in the Town Budget.
- Every vote matters! Turnout matters a lot in town referendums, so taking time to vote will make a big difference.
Finally, Bethel’s Board of Finance Chair, Bob Manfreda, explains why your participation is so important:
“There is a saying that ‘democracy is not easy.’ This is especially so when we have a Town Meeting form of government, where participation in each of the three events that comprise the Town of Bethel’s Budget process (the Public Hearing, the Annual Town Meeting and the Town Referendum) is critical.
I recall an exchange I had during one of my first budget seasons while on the Board of Finance. A resident stopped me in the Town Hall. He was confused, and more than a little upset, that there was not going to be a Turf Field in Bethel. He was adamant. He was at the meeting where the Turf Field was approved and he wanted to know why the BOF was ignoring the wishes of the Public! As it turned out, this individual had attended the Annual Town Meeting, where the Budget, including the Capital Plan with the Turf Field, was approved to go to Town Referendum. He confided that he did not vote during the Town Referendum, where the Capital Plan, including the Turf Field, was voted down.
So, please, participate in all 3 events!”