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Weston School Board Leader Slams Budget Meeting

WESTON, Conn. – Weston's annual town budget meeting is "redundant" and "peculiar," according to Weston's Board of Education chairman. Phil Schaefer suggested that the Charter Revision Committee consider eliminating it from Weston's charter at a meeting Wednesday.

Schaefer outlined the Board of Education's budget process to the committee and said the public has many chances to ask questions about the school spending.

"Someone can arbitrarily stand up and say, 'Hey, even though the superintendent, the Board of Education, the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance approved this budget,' [they can ask for a huge cut]. I find it strange and odd," he said.

Weston voters are invited to the annual town budget meeting to ask questions and speak concerns about the town's proposed budgets. Residents can propose a cut to a budget, which the people in attendance vote upon.

First Selectman Gayle Weinstein disagreed with Schaefer on Wednesday and said the annual town budget meeting should remain. "I've never seen a group of individuals override the overarching message of the meeting," said Weinstein. However, she said, "It's not fair you can vote the budget down, but you can't increase it."

Schaeffer and Weinstein said the machine vote referendum ballot should stay. But Weinstein said that if the number of voters keeps dropping, the cost of the referendum should be considered when deciding to have a vote. She suggested a tipping point – a certain percentage of voters must show up to the annual town budget meeting or the town goes to a referendum vote.

The Charter Revision Committee is collecting opinions from the public and the town to make decisions regarding changes to the town's charter.

Weinstein, addressing some proposals, said the Board of Selectmen should not be increased to five members. On the length of the first selectman's term, Weinstein said two years can be a problem administratively. But if a bad selectman is elected to a four-year term, he or she "can do significant damage to the town." She suggested the position remain part time to allow flexibility – with late nights and working on weekends, he or she can take time off during the week and "work when you need to work."

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