SANFORD — Tuesday’s validation vote on the municipal budget is the last of its kind.

From now on, the City Council’s vote will be the last step in the budget process.

A clause in the city charter says the ordinance that instituted the municipal budget validation vote is automatically repealed after five successive years if voter turnout is less than 25 percent of the turnout in the last gubernatorial election.

On Tuesday, 1,749, or 12 percent of the city’s 14,396 voters cast ballots. To have met the 25 percent threshold, at least 1,867 people would have to have gone to the polls, according to figures supplied by City Clerk Sue Cote.

Cote said the action is automatic and referred to section 704 of the city charter.

Most municipalities in Maine have school budget validation votes — but most city manger/city council forms of government do not have municipal budget validation votes.

Sanford’s charter commission, which wrote the city’s 2013 charter approved by voters, included the municipal budget vote as a compromise, recalled Charter Commission member Maura Herlihy.

As the charter was being written, its crafters were about to put to the voters a change from  the representative town meeting form of government  in place for many years to the city manager/city council form of governance. The prior system saw low voter turnout as well, so much so that the charter was changed over the years to reflect fewer representative town meeting members required for a quorum, recalled Herlihy.

“The municipal validation  vote was essentially a compromise  between those who believed in the checks and balances provided by the representative town meeting and those who believed  it was time for a true city manager/city council form of government,” Herlihy said. “It was a nice compromise to meet the concerns of people giving up representative town meeting.”

The charter goes on to say that if the municipal budget validation referendum process is repealed, it may only be reinstated through the voter-initiated ordinance process and any vote to reinstate the budget validation referendum process must be held during the regularly scheduled November general election.

The school budget validation vote is required by state not municipal law and will continue. In the case of the school validation, voters are asked every three years if they wish to continue the validation process and so far, they have, Cote said. The question of whether to continue the school budget validation vote most recently appeared on the 2016 ballot.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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