Budget Votes, Reconsiderations, and Holds

This is for folks who are wondering about the more esoteric aspects of the vote on the annual budget.

The Lead-up

The City Council has a standing Finance Committee, made up of all city councilors, that reviews the annual budget submitted by the City Manager.  The budget was submitted on May 12 and the Finance Committee began their review on May 19.  Normally, there are a few Finance Committee meetings due to the length of the budget.

On June 2, the City Council met (in regular session, not Finance Committee) to review, discuss, and (they thought) approve the city budget.  However, many citizens called in to the city council meeting to specifically object to an increase in the budget for the WPD and about the amount for resource officers in the WPS.

The City Council met on June 9 and again on June 16 to continue budget discussions.  These discussions were met by much citizen opposition to funding the police and the school resource officers.  At the end of this time, not all citizens (who had wanted to speak) had had the opportunity to speak.

On June 16, the City Council voted 11-0 to approve the budget (item 8a).

Councilor King’s Reconsideration of the vote

Two days later, on June 18, Khrystian King asked for the City Council to reconsider the vote at its next meeting on June 23 because some people had been disconnected who had wanted to speak at the June 16 meeting.  
He specifically invoked Rule 30 of the City Council Rules:

Rule 30. Reconsideration of Items Previously Considered An item once duly considered and voted, whether adopted or not, shall not be brought back before the city council within ninety (90) days of the last action taken by the city council unless a motion to reconsider has been timely made or filed. Except as provided below, a motion to reconsider an item shall be in order: 1) at any time during the meeting when the item was first decided yea or nay; or, 2) upon the filing such a motion in writing with the city clerk any time prior to 5 p.m. on the Thursday next following the day in which the item was first decided. A motion for reconsideration shall not be debatable and shall, if accepted by a two-thirds vote of the members of the city council, rescind the previous vote on the item and place it back on the floor for further action. In computing the time for filing any motion for reconsideration, Saturdays, Sunday and legal holidays shall be excluded.   

You can refer to Tracy’s thread for a lot of information about the reconsideration he requested:

It goes on the next agenda, it generally is taken first, and it is NOT debatable. That means that the Councilors DO NOT DELIBERATE the item; it’s a straight up or down vote right off the bat.

And again, if they vote YES, that reopens (in this case) the budget for deliberation; if they vote NO, the vote on the budget stays as voted this past Tuesday.

June 23 City Council Meeting

At the City Council meeting on June 23, Councilor King then held under privilege the budget vote.  (City Council Rules – Rule 29 (c) – page 13 of the pdf).

This means that the vote is held until the next meeting.

So – when is the next meeting?

Normally, the next meeting would be on June 30 and the vote would continue.

However, this is the annual budget.

Remember that the city manager submitted the annual budget on May 12.

According to section 5-2 (b) of the City Charter (page 23 on the pdf):

If the city council fails to take action with respect to any amount recommended in the annual budget, either by approving, reducing or rejecting the same, within forty-five days after its receipt of the budget, such amount shall, without any action by the city council, become a part of the appropriations for the year, and shall be available for the purposes specified.

Forty-five days from May 12 is June 26.

Special Meetings

The natural course of action would be to call a special meeting.

You can find out about special meetings in section 2-6 (c) (ii) of the City Charter (pages 8-9 on the pdf):

The mayor or the vice-chair of the city council, or any five members thereof, may at any time call a special meeting by causing written notice, stating the time and place of such meeting and signed by the councilor(s) calling the same, to be delivered in hand to each member of the city council, or left at his/her usual dwelling place, at least twelve hours before the time of such meeting. Except in the case of an emergency, notice of such special meeting, in accordance with chapter thirty-nine, section twenty-three B of the General Laws,  shall be posted on the city bulletin board at least forty-eight hours in advance of the time set for such special meeting.

That means:

1 – The mayor can call a special meeting by delivering a notice by hand 12 hours before the meeting

2 – The vice-chair can call a special meeting by delivering a notice by hand 12 hours before the meeting 

3 – Five city councilors can call a special meeting by delivering a notice by hand 12 hours before the meeting

The second paragraph is a moot point (because that section has been repealed) – but the City Council is still subject to the open meeting law, which STILL requires the posting of a meeting and its agenda 48 hours before the meeting.

If the city council needs to meet in the meantime, they could argue that it was an emergency, but knowing about something for 45 days and not voting on it hardly constitutes an emergency.

Where does this leave the budget?

If the budget is not voted on by June 26, the city council doesn’t need to vote on the budget.

The city manager’s budget will be adopted without their vote.

Couldn’t we have a temporary (1/12) budget voted in?

The City of Boston seems to be able to be able to vote for partial budgets while they work through councilor’s concerns.  It does not appear that Worcester has the same ability; the charter refers to an ‘annual’ budget.