A group of Amherst residents is using the Voter Veto provision of the Town’s Charter in an attempt to overturn a recent Town Council vote to borrow $35.8 million for an expansion of the Jones Library.
The “Voter Veto” is a provision of Amherst’s Town Charter (Section 8.4) that has not yet been attempted. If 5% of Amherst‘s registered voters sign a petition to overturn a Town Council vote within two weeks of that vote, the Town Council must reconsider its vote at its next regular Town Council meeting. And, if the vote on that measure is not repealed, the Town Council must provide for the submission of the question of whether Amherst should approve the matter for a determination by the voters either at a special election or at the next regular Town election, with the date to be determined by the Town Council. In order to initiate the veto process for the library borrowing, the organizers will need to collect at least 853 signatures from registered Amherst voters by April 19.
The petition drive is being organized by Vincent O’Connor and Carol Gray
The petitioners are collecting only “hard” signatures, that is, there will be no online petition to sign.
The petitioners say they are undertaking this action because:
- Amherst has more urgent capital projects: Replacing Fort River & Wildwood Elementary Schools, building a new Fire Station, and a new Department of Public Works facility are critical needs which stand to improve day-to-day life in Amherst and improve public safety.
- Amherst officials plan to ask residents to vote for a tax increase to pay for upcoming school construction even though Amherst’s tax rate is among the highest in the state. Funds that Amherst plans to use to expand the Jones expansion could instead be put toward school construction, lessening the need to borrow and raise taxes.
- Major reconstruction of the Jones Library is unnecessary, and plans for smaller-scale targeted improvements could be adopted.
- High property taxes are making Amherst a difficult place to live for all but the wealthy. About 28 percent of Amherst residents were living below the poverty line in 2019.
For more information Conract Carol Gray at at firstname.lastname@example.org
The wording of the petition follows:
To the .Amherst Town Council: Pursuant to Section 8.4: Voter Veto Procedures of the Amherst Home Rule Charter of 2017, we, the undersigned registered Amherst voters, protest the April 5, 2021 Amherst Town Council vote to adopt Council Order FY21- 06C to “appropriate $35,279.700 for the expansion and renovation of the Jones Library, and to meet this appropriation, authorize the Treasurer, with the approval of the Town Manager, to borrow said amount…which borrowing shall be reduced to the extent of any grants received from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, funds received from The Jones Library, Incorporated in an amount no less than $5,656,576 which [is] in addition to the $1,000,000 previously appropriated under the Community Preservation Act…” In accordance with Section 8.4, we request the Town Council reconsider its vote for this project at its next regular Town Council meeting, and, if the vote on that measure is not repealed, that the Town Council provide for the submission of the question of whether Amherst should approve this project, including the $35.279.700 of borrowing, for a determination by the voters either at a special election or at the next regular Town election.