March 6 2019

Ballot Question Language and Arguments For and Against Released

By: Rich Hosford

The official language for the ballot question that will be before voters has been released by Town Clerk Amy Warfield’s office.


On Saturday, April 6, during the 2019 Town Election, Burlington voters will be asked if they think the Treasurer/Tax Collector position should be changed from elected to appointed.


The ballot question was initially put forward on the suggestion of the Government Review Committee. Member of the committee argued that because the size of the town budget and the complexity of the position has grown since the current Treasurer/Collector Brian Curtin was first elected 43 years ago. Because of this, they argue, leaving the position up to the uncertainty of an election could end up with someone unqualified in an important financial position within the town. When Curtin announced he was retiring, a move he has since rescinded, committee members said they felt it was the right time to propose making the change.


The proposal to put the the ballot question before Town Meeting was approved by the Board of Selectmen. Town Meeting approved the warrant article last September.


The ballot question is not without opposition. For one, Curtin himself says he believes the position should remain elected. Those opposed to making the change from elected to appointed argue that will cause the position to lose autonomy and independence from the Board of Selectmen and that it would further consolidate power in one group.


Here are the arguments for and against as they will appear on the ballot:


In favor of a YES Vote


- Last year Burlington’s Treasurer/Collector, Brian Curtin, announced his retirement after serving more than 40 years. When he was first elected the towns’ budget was $20 million. The budget has grown to $150 million with increasingly complex rules and regulations.


- With the retirement announcement, Burlington has an opportunity to change this position from an elected to an appointed (hired) position. In September 2018, Town Meeting overwhelmingly approved a Warrant article to change this position to be appointed. The Town now needs to affirm that vote.


- Burlington, like most Massachusetts municipalities, should make the change to an appointed position. Currently, the number of communities with an appointed Treasurer is 286 of 351 communities.


- The only current requirements to be elected Treasurer are to be a resident who is at least 18 years old.  The elected requirement limits the job to residents who can run a successful election campaign. As residents, we should require job specific credentials and experience regardless of where the candidate lives.


- As an appointed position, there will be relevant job requirements, a rigorous independent search and an interview process. The Board of Selectmen will interview the top candidates in a public session.


- With the current Treasurer’s planned retirement, this is the time to make this change to ensure Burlington’s financial future is managed by a highly qualified professional as required for this role. The process begins with your YES vote to appoint the Treasurer/Collector.


In favor of a NO vote


- Consolidation of power managed by a few people is not in the best interest of Burlington.


- This position should be kept Elected in order to maintain the checks and balance within a democratic form of government. This provides independent financial advice to all boards of Town government, Town meeting and residents without interference from the Board of Selectmen. By making this position appointed all of the financial oversight such as auditor, budget analyst, and Town accountant would report to the Board of Selectmen.


- Currently the Treasurer must answer to the voters directly. Burlington is a highly educated community and there are several residents qualified for this position. Keeping this position elected the candidates would be vetted through an 8 week examination by the voters versus a small committee.


- This position has always been an elected position in Burlington answering to the residents who pay the salary of this position.


- A charter study recommended and was voted on by Town Meeting in January 24, 1977 to accept the concept of a Town Administrator form of government. That study also recommended a Bylaw change that was voted to change and combine the positions of Treasurer and Tax Collector into one elected position.


- The primary responsibility of this position is to collect, invest and manage the 150 million dollars of Town Funds and report to the residents annually.


- The residents of the Town deserve the right to vote for this Elected Official concerning the financial oversight and management of their Tax Revenue.


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