Crofton residents asked to reconvene to approve budgets for 2000, 2001

New session scheduled after violation found in voter notification

January 12, 2000|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

On the heels of an aborted attempt to bring voters to a budget vote, the Crofton Civic Association is calling residents to a meeting Jan. 24 to present for approval the fiscal 2000 and 2001 budgets, association president Gayle Sears said yesterday.

Sears was forced to schedule the new session after a Monday night meeting where residents said neighbors had not been properly notified of a pending vote on the current year's spending plan. They said they wanted to reschedule the meeting on both budgets.

Taking action on the current budget, which was not included in the mailing notifying residents of the meeting on the fiscal 2001 budget, would have violated community bylaws that require 10 days' notice before a vote, Sears told them.

It will cost the tax district about $1,000 to send out notices of the new meeting, but there could be more consequences if the civic association can't draw a quorum of 75 households.

"I'd be surprised if a quorum shows up," said John Conant, board treasurer and chairman of the finance committee. He said he interpreted residents' stand Monday as a sign "that neither the 2000 nor the 2001 [budgets] will be approved."

Others were not so pessimistic.

"I think the odds are better, but I am a little worried," said board member Richard Trunnell. "If they don't get out, we're going to take a $30,000 hit [on the 2001 budget] and that may come at the expense of having less-than-manicured common areas."

After three months during which the civic association's board wrestled with a complicated budget and county officials criticized the process, the general membership meeting lasted only 10 minutes, without presentations on either spending plan.

Although both budgets -- the 2000 plan at $925,139 and the 2001 plan at $917,042 -- were presented in a newsletter that went out to residents late last month, the board noted in the mailing that residents need only vote on the fiscal 2001 budget.

Soon after the newsletter was mailed to residents, Carolyn Kirby, special tax district coordinator for the county, sent a letter to the board saying it violated community bylaws by not allowing a vote on the 2000 budget, which was to be resubmitted to the county this month.

Sears ordered Town Manager Barbara Swann to draw up ballots for votes on both budgets, but the board never met to approve spending for the extra notifications to be sent to the community's 2,700 homes.

"There is no clear statement that says there will be a vote on the 2000 budget," Sears told more than 100 residents who gathered in the Crofton Elementary School cafeteria Monday. "The county is watching us very closely as to how we resubmit this 2000 budget."

Community members had approved a $600,849 budget for fiscal 2000 last January, but the county ordered the civic association to resubmit the plan because it did not show about $295,000 held in reserve.

Failure to achieve a quorum at the meeting in two weeks would constitute rejection of both budgets, and expenditures in both plans would have to be reduced to $600,849 -- the last budget amount approved by residents -- according to community bylaws, Kirby said.

That would force the board to find $30,000 in unused funds from this year's spending plan to pay for a maintenance truck it has purchased and a police cruiser it planned to buy.

The 2001 budget would take a $38,000 cut, most of which would come from the maintenance portion of the plan, board members said. Sears said the board will meet Monday to discuss possible cuts in case not enough people show, or residents vote no.

The final budgets must be submitted to the county by Jan. 31, according to county regulations.

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