OAKLAND — A petition asking for a property tax freeze in town will be given serious consideration, but it may not carry the rule of law, said Town Manager Peter Nielsen.

Petitioners have asked that the tax freeze, and a separate measure that would broadcast town council meetings to the public, be placed on the ballot in this November’s elections.

Resident Anne Hammond, who helped draft the petitions, worked with a handful of volunteers to collect more than 300 signatures on each one.

Nielsen said that under the town charter there is no requirement for the town to obey the request of the petition.

In Oakland’s charter, voter petitions can be used to reverse a town council decision, or to enact an ordinance, but the wording of the petitions that were circulated do not apply to either of those situations.

“It makes them politically important, but there are not a lot of requirements for the council to adhere to,” Nielsen said.

However, Nielsen stressed that the petitions, and the views they represent, will still be taken seriously.

“The local officials are keenly aware of the situation and we are close witnesses to the situation that the school is facing in trying to pass their budget,” Nielsen said, referring to a local school budget that has been rejected by voters twice. “We are trying to come up with positions that are respectful of the voters’ views at this time.”

Hammond said that the tax-freeze petition is more about involving the public in town governance than keeping taxes frozen.

“The petition says that they simply have to ask the residents of Oakland in a November election before they can enact a tax increase,” Hammond said.

Still, she said that, as long as the spirit of the petitions is being honored, she doesn’t intend to pursue the matter legally.

“I don’t want to get into a lot of legal wrangling,” Hammond said.

Last week, in an effort to be responsive to the petitions before the election, the council directed Nielsen to come up with cost estimates to broadcast the town’s public meetings, either on television or through the Internet.

“If they adopt it, then it doesn’t need to go on the ballot,” Hammond said.

Hammond said that she would also support a measure that would require expenditures of $1 million or more to come before voters in November.

“I think we have to come up with some ideas on how to get more people to be able to vote on big ticket items,” Hammond said.

She said that annual town meetings don’t go far enough in attracting voter input.

“Between 50 and 100 people typically show up at our town meeting,” Hammond said. “This year, there were a lot of close votes and discussion on a lot of items. Essentially, 50 people decide our budget.”

Nielsen said that he is researching the petition issues, and will present his findings to the council at its next regular meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 12.

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