Following nearly a year of special taxpayer meetings, heated courtroom proceedings, alleged political agendas and much anxiety over the fate of the cash-strapped Central Coventry Fire District and its residents, a date has been set for an annual budget meeting and vote for fiscal 2013-2014. The CCFD Board of Directors announced the details at a public meeting on Wednesday night.
At 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013 at Coventry High School, taxpayers will once again have an opportunity to vote for or against a proposed budget and tax rate - both of which are needed in order to to keep the foundering fire district operational. Also up for a vote that evening will be a resolution to adopt a multi-tiered tax classification system for the 2013-14 fiscal year and moving forward, which would call for varying tax rates to be imposed for different property classifications such as residential, commercial and industrial.
Board Chairman Fred Gralinski explained that in addition to preparing for the budget meeting, board members are studying the district's charter for any possible amendments, though it is currently unclear if any proposed charter changes will appear on the Oct. 21 ballot. He also spoke of a proposed feasibility study in regards to impact fees and if it makes sense for the district to adopt any as a way to collect more revenue.
During public comment, Coventry resident and business owner, Conrad Burns, who last October provided his pro bono services to the district in an attempt to organize its debts and balances, suggested several steps that the Board should take before the budget meeting is upon them.
Burns stressed the need for Board members to engage with the Town's Board of Canvassers in regards to overseeing the polling process, and urged them to, sooner rather than later, develop rules of order in addition to appointing tellers and a moderator for the meeting.
Most importantly, Burns implored the Board as an elected body be more open with the public about its progress, especially in regards to the proposed budget, for which a public work session has yet to be held. He suggested submitting weekly updates to the public and the media, to not only promote transparency, but also to officially address any questions or rumors that may be circulating throughout the district and the town.
"Don't give us any surprises in October or you'll get a big no. If we [the taxpayers] don't know what the budget is or what it means, we're going to vote no," said Burns. "You don't want a no. If you want this fire district to survive, you need to get a yes."
"This board is way too quiet," he continued. "We need you to reach out to the people and let them know where you're and that you are working. You need those taxpayers. You need them to pay the bills and you need them to approve a budget."
Check back with Coventry Patch for more CCFD budget details as they become available.