Governor Ned Lamont on May 1 issued Executive Order No. 7HH, barring towns and cities from holding budget referendums.
Titled Protection of Public Health and Safety during COVID-19 Pandemic and Response – Municipal Budget Adoption, Common-Interest Community Meetings, the bottom line message as far as Easton is concerned, is that the Board of Finance will have to set the town’s 2020-21 budget.
First Selectman David Bindelglass had direct contact with the governor’s office as recently as April 29 and understood that Easton would be able to go forward with its referendum, he said.
Bindelglass said he believed that the clarifying executive order that Lamont issued May 1 was in response to that conversation.
“I think it’s unfortunate that we can’t have a referendum, that people can’t decide on the budget,” Bindelglass said. “We have to adjust our plans as a result of the executive order, which definitively forbids us from having a referendum.”
There have already been a number of executive orders about town meetings and referendums. Why another executive order was needed at this time is unclear.
The Board of Finance collected comments from residents from April 1 to 30 since the annual Town Meeting couldn’t be held due to social distancing during the pandemic. The finance board will meet on May 5, which was the pre-pandemic date of the budget referendum, at 7 p.m. via Zoom.
See the original budget calendar here.
The finance board has not yet scheduled any department callbacks, but Bindelglass expects that will happen in the coming weeks. The board has until July 1 to formulate a budget. More details will be provided as they become available.