T minus one day

Tomorrow’s the big election day. It’s supposed to be a beautiful day. I plan to be standing outside at the polls (Heritage School) for most if not all of the day, holding signs and greeting voters.

This week’s Charlton Villager (6.3 MB PDF) has an article on the race, with our file photos above the fold. I’m not sure my explanation of why I voted on the police issue really gets through right (I could see the “I’m not supposed to be a robot” line being taken the wrong way), but in general it seems alright.

Plus, elsewhere in the paper they finally announce that there’s an opening on the Finance Committee, which was good to see.

Elected Non-policy positions

I’m curious what people think about pros and cons of electing positions that aren’t policy-setting. For instance, Charlton currently elects its Town Clerk, and used to elect its Town Tax Collector and Town Treasurer. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts elects its Auditor and Treasurer. I’m not sure how policy-setting the Attorney General and Secretary of the Commonwealth are, but they’re elected too and might fit in this category.

Many of these positions require specialized knowledge and training, and it’s not clear that voters always know who would actually do the best job. Although, it’s not always clear than an appointing authority (in the executive branch, say) would do the best job either.

Just wondering what people think about it.

Upcoming Town Meeting Articles

Articles likely to be of the most interest at Charlton’s May 17 Annual Town Meeting (that I’ll be presiding over if I win the election on May 1):

  • Articles 11–15, 17: The Budget and other expenditures (always fun)
  • Article 16: Acquisition of Water Lines in Charlton: It’s not entirely clear to me what this is for, but there was something in the papers recently about Southbridge being a bit upset at the “eminent domain” language in the article. This may just be taking money that the Water department has made and using it to improve the water infrastructure, or there may be a bit more going on. I’m looking forward to learning more about it.
  • Article 19: Accept MGL c. 32B § 20 relating to a Post Employment Benefits Liability Trust Fund: I’m not quite sure what it is, especially as the state’s online copy of c. 32B doesn’t include a section 20. So, presumably it’s a fairly new law that can be accepted. It looks from the article that this may just be trying to restructure the Town’s pension fund liabilities in some fashion.
  • Article 20: Accept MGL c. 152 § 69 relating to Workers Compensation: Again, I’m not quite sure what this is. It sounds like the Town’s finally deciding to offer some sort of Workers Compensation to its employees, which sounds odd since it seems unlikely that there’s nothing in place now.
  • Article 21: Accept MGL c. 64L Local Option Meal Tax: This is the local option to increase the state meals tax from 6.25% to 7.00%, with the additional 0.75% going directly to the Town. This wasn’t on the warrant in prior town meetings, but the Finance Committee has chosen to ask the selectmen to put it on this warrant. There are still some questions to be answered as to how much revenue the town could get from it from the Mass. Pike rest area that’s physically in Charlton, which would hopefully be the bulk of the collection. It’s possible that by May the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee will vote to oppose it, but it’s possible that they might be for it. I predict that if they’re against it, it will be defeated rather quickly, but if they’re for it, it might be quite an interesting debate.
  • Article 23: Purchase of Prindle Lake Dam: At a prior Town Meeting, The Town asked the state legislature to pass a law allowing Charlton to purchase and maintain the dam, but be allowed to assess betterments to those properties that would benefit, rather than assessing it as a general tax to all the town. Now that that law has been passed, here’s the article with the question of actually what should the town spend for what, and how should the cost be assessed.
  • Article 25: Change Town Clerk from being elected to being appointed: The ballot question related to this was defeated at the May 2009 town election. That was about changing the office to being appointed by the Town Administrator. This proposal would have the office appointed by the Board of Selectmen. Complications with the prior proposal may have included the fact that our Town Administrator’s husband is the Town Clerk of another community. If this proposal passes at town meeting, it will also need to pass at a ballot question at the May 2011 election.

Where my taxes went: 2009

A couple years ago I constructed a graph of what percentage of my total tax expenditure went where, and I decided to do the same thing for 2009. My tax situation is a bit different now, as since my last chart I’ve had kids and I purchased a significant amount of land from my parents. This shows out of all the taxes that I keep track of, which agency gets how much of my total taxes. This includes taxes on income in 2009 (modified by refunds received in 2010 for the 2009 tax year), taxes on assets, and sales taxes that I kept track of. This does not include other taxes on expenditures like gas tax, cable tax, meals tax, or sales tax where I didn’t enter the sales tax amount as an itemized split into my finance program (since I’m not worried about tracking it that closely). I would have preferred a pie chart, as it’s more customary for this kind of thing, but it’s hard to show a negative percentage in there very well. Total appears to not be 100.00% due to rounding.
[2009 Tax Expenditure Graph]