2019 Raymond Budget Committee

Surprise Motion Made at Budget Committee to Revisit School Budget Recommendation
By Leslie O’Donnell   2-11-19

In a surprise action following the conclusion of the Raymond Town Deliberative Session on Feb. 9, the Budget Committee heard a motion by Joe Saulnier, seconded by Sarah Maldonado, to revisit its Feb. 2 vote not to recommend the revised school budget. That 2-3 vote came following the conclusion of the School Deliberative Session, after the school budget had been amended upward. Chairman Carol Watjus, Dawn “Rani” Merryman and Selectman Wayne Welch were opposed to recommending it, with Josh Mann and Saulnier in favor and Sharon Stolts and Maldonado absent.

Saulnier sought the new vote this time with all the Budget Committee members present. He noted that the School District’s attorney had recommended that the Budget Committee review its recommendation when it had a chance to do so with a full board.

The vote on whether to recommend the school budget had caused upset before. At its Jan. 3 meeting, the Budget Committee voted 5-2 to recommend the school budget. Voting no were Watjus and Merryman.

Watjus and Merryman were ardently opposed to taking a new vote Feb. 9. Watjus said having a new vote would set an unfortunate precedent, but Maldonado countered that Watjus had supported reconsideration before. As reported previously by Raymond Area News, Merryman made a motion to revisit the vote on the school budget at the Budget Committee’s Jan. 8 meeting. Following discussion later in the meeting, Watjus polled the board and found that only she and Merryman were in favor of voting again, and no action was taken. At that time, Stolts was absent, and Mann had stated it would be unfair to her to revisit the vote that evening because she had voted on the original motion but was absent that night.

Merryman and Watjus vociferously continued to argue against the motion Feb. 9 after Watjus had polled the board; they were the only two members to say they were opposed to a new vote.

“As an elected official and chairman of the budget committee, it is my responsibility to advise and guide the residents. I would like to publicly voice my concern on reconsidering a vote on something that was legally voted on,” Watjus said. She claimed it would set a precedent that it is all right to challenge a vote that did not get the outcome desired.

“The public could question the ethics of the committee and it could eventually end up in court,” she claimed, saying, “To get a do-over just because you didn’t get what you wanted is not ethical or the right thing to do.

“We can’t keep voting because you didn’t get what you want,” she added, directing her comments at Mann and Saulnier. “That’s a very bad strategy.”

She and Merryman also suggested that such a vote would drive more people to vote no on the budget. “I strongly suggest we as a committee do not reconsider the vote, due to how blatantly wrong this is,” she said. “This sets a precedent to revisit something when you don’t get the decision you want. What kind of precedent are we setting as a Town?”

Saulnier said the School District attorney had advised that they could hold the new vote. The Town attorney, however, said the meeting had not been posted properly to allow that, but agreed that a vote could be taken.

When Watjus said she would not be taking a vote on whether to revisit the matter, Saulnier made a motion to overrule the chair, but no action was taken. Watjus said she did not think legally they could vote, but the town attorney said the board could override her legal opinion and needed to take a vote on the motion on revisiting,

Merryman moved to adjourn the meeting but the vote was defeated, 2-5, with Merryman and Watjus in favor. Watjus said she found the motion on the table illegal

Saulnier explained, and the Town lawyer and Welch agreed, that 24-hour notice was required to hold another meeting, and replaced his motion with one giving notice for a meeting set for 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 11 at the Raymond High School media center. The ballot must be complete and to the printer by 5 p.m. that day.

“I think the school is going to regret this, and the Budget Committee is setting a bad precedent,” Watjus said again.

“We owe it to the public that we have a full budget committee,” Mann said. The original vote to recommend the budget had a full committee voting, and a revote would also have a full committee, as opposed to the partial committee present Feb. 2.

Watjus disagreed.

Stolts, referencing her absence at the Feb. 2 vote, said Watjus had told her the Budget Committee only needed a quorum present at the School Deliberative, as there were typically few changes, and did not need a full committee.

During the discussion, Merryman sat shaking her head. “I personally would not put our citizens in the jackpot because we didn’t get what we wanted,” she said.

Welch said he did not think there was anything that states the committee cannot change its mind. “If we have a chance as a full board to do this, we owe it to the community to do that,” he said, adding he did not intend to change his vote.

“Set a date for a new meeting, debate the issues, and vote,” said Welch.

“The only thing at issue is whether this is a legal meeting,” Welch added. “You need to set a date for a new meeting, post it publicly and correctly, and adjourn this meeting to the properly posted meeting.”

Watjus raised the issue of precedent again, and referred to “all this energy and drama to change a recommendation on the ballot. I find I very disingenuous to the people of the town. I think it’s something the school is going to regret doing. The Budget Committee is setting a bad precedent for every committee and board.”

Welch reiterated the need to select a date for a new meeting and post it properly. “We owe it to everybody to do it,” he said.

“We’re doing it because they have the votes now,” Watjus said.

Mann stated that “I have to agree with Wayne. It’s not about having the votes now to do it. We owe it to the public to have a full board and a full vote. We have to represent the public interest. We owe it to the public to give the public a full and proper recommendation.”

Again Watjus disagreed and said everyone had the responsibility to attend the meetings. “We had a full board of people who wanted to be here,” she said.

Welch said it was important “to take the high road,” and the motion was made and the committee eventually voted 5-2 to adjourn and reconvene at 4 p.m. Feb. 11 at the RHS media center. Merryman and Watjus voted no. At 1;08 p.m. Monday, a message was emailed stating the meeting had been changed to 4:30 p.m. that day.


Budget Committee Recommends School Budget 4-3
By Leslie O’Donnell  

At 4:30 p.m. Feb. 11, Watjus convened the Budget Committee, with all members present except for Maldonado, who participated via phone from her car. About 30 people, many of them School District employees, attended.

Saulnier explained that the Budget Committee had a full board in attendance when it voted to recommend the proposed school operating budget, and “we have a full board now.”

Stolts asked for an explanation of the budget increase, which had been proposed by a resident at Deliberative Session, and Mann described the process of amending a warrant article. Saulnier said the addition to the budget amounts to about a one-quarter percent increase.

“In all fairness, it affects the budget minimally,” Stolts said.

“My vote will stay the same,” Merryman said. “I did not agree with the original budget – I thought it was high. I believe the Budget Committee is another layer standing in the gap” between what increasing government agencies ask for and what taxpayers can afford.

“I thought it was irresponsible to rubber-stamp the budget given to us, and that still stands,” she said. “I’m fearful that it will have Town voters vote for the default budget, and that concern has been  brought up and ignored.

“I also object to the idea of re-voting every time we don’t get our way. I don’t agree with that philosophy,” she added.

Watjus said her vote will also remain the same. “It has nothing to do with having a full board or the initial vote on the budget,” she said, adding that members who chose not to attend the School Deliberative Session are now wanting to weigh in.

“Town residents deserve a full board when appropriate, and I don’t feel someone should get a do-over when the vote was taken with a proper board. I don’t think any of the people who were not there should weigh in – it’s not ethical to go behind the scenes to get the vote you want,” she said.

Claiming such a vote sets a bad precedent, Watjus said, “it’s wrong.”

Then she picked up a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order and said there should not be a meeting or a vote because “the losing side does not get to say they want to have another vote” – noting that should be done by someone who had voted in favor.

With a question raised over whether Robert’s Rules always applies to the Budget Committee, and Merryman’s motion the previous month to reconsider the school budget recommendation, when no mention of Robert’s Rules was made, Welch pointed out that the chair decides whether to follow Robert’s Rules and can be overridden.

As the meeting neared its conclusion, Merryman said, “can we all be honest? No one is fooled. This is a Shanghai deal.” She defended her earlier motion to reconsider as “just as sketchy a situation” and said the committee had spent weeks delving into the budget, only to have “it completely nipped in the bud with a motion to vote to recommend.

“The whole thing has been less than honest and less than upright,” she added.

On Saulnier’s motion to revisit the budget recommendation, the vote was 5-2, with Merryman and Watjus opposed.

On his following motion to recommend approval of the school operating budget, the vote was 4-3, with Welch joining Merryman and Watjus in opposition. The ballot will state that the Budget Committee recommends the school operating budget.


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