For the second time this year, Hartford voters will be asked to approve a pair of changes to the town charter on Election Day. Both proposed changes passed on Town Meeting Day but the Legislature refused to ratify the amendments, saying they were inadequately warned. One amendment would allow the town to implement a local option tax. The other would require an Australian ballot vote for all budget items put before town voters.
So while Hartford voters are casting ballots for offices from President of the United States to local justices of the peace, they will also have a second chance to weigh in on the two charter changes. Town Manager Leo Puller says the two articles are exactly the same as those approved at town meeting.
The local option tax language would allow the town to collect a 1 percent tax on rooms, meals and alcoholic beverages. Vermont's optional 1 percent local sales tax is not included in the charter change. Puller says the proposed charter language dictates the local option tax proceeds be kept in a capital reserve fund and any expenditures will have to be approved by a town voters.
The other charter change would do away with floor votes for all budget items put before the town. Instead, all town and school district budget votes would be held by Australian ballot. Puller says the amendment is intended to give more voters a voice on budget questions.
"So everybody gets a chance to vote on that, instead of the couple hundred folks that typically may show up at a town meeting," Puller explained.
Puller said the Australian ballot charter amendment passed by a wide margin on Town Meeting Day, while the local option tax language was approved by a slimmer margin of a few hundred votes.