A seat at the table

When City Clerk Heidi Grindle eyed a sheet of paper with three names on it last week, it wasn’t a list of people asking for higher taxes or longer winters. It was a list of residents interested in running for one of six municipal offices that will need to be filled when city voters head to the polls this November: two seats each on the City Council, Ellsworth School Board and Ellsworth Public Library Board of Trustees.

This year’s election coincides with apparently growing interest and concern among citizens over the city’s financial decisions and resulting tax rate. In 2016, a grassroots “taxpayers’ revolt” movement pressured the City Council to lower the budget. A group calling itself Ellsworth Residents for Fiscal Responsibility is set to organize this month.

Serving on any of these municipal boards is an opportunity to directly address those financial issues. The School Board sets the school budget ($20.5 million this year) while the council has final say on that spending plan. The council, meanwhile, is constantly faced with financial decisions ranging from installing irrigation at Knowlton Park to considering a public safety building.

Attending meetings to let elected representatives know about financial concerns is important. Having a seat at the table as one of those representatives, however, affords an even greater opportunity to address those matters directly. It’s the difference between having a voice and having a vote. The job of a local board member is not glamorous and is often thankless, but it is important. The shortage of interested candidates right now is an open opportunity for residents to determine their fiscal future.

Anyone with interest and time to serve should give that serious consideration. Nomination papers can be picked up at Ellsworth City Hall. They must be returned there by Friday, Sept. 22, with enough signatures of other citizens (50-100) to qualify for the November ballot.

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