AUGUSTA — City Councilors voted to submit seven proposed changes to the city charter in a referendum to voters June 12.

Councilors voted 6-2 to approve bringing the proposed changes to residents for a vote, including one change that would remove a current city charter requirement the city form a charter commission at least very 10 years to review the charter.

The proposed charter changes would generally make some minor administrative changes to city rules, including clarifying term limits to specify a school board member may serve three consecutive terms as chairperson of the board after his or her term as a regular board member has expired; require that nomination papers be made available 100 days before elections and returned 60 to 75 days before the election; and raise the limit on the amount of debt that city councilors can approve without going to referendum, from the current $750,000 to $1 million.

The most controversial change would replace the current charter requirement that city councilors shall form a charter commission at least every 10 years with a requirement councilors only determine, every 10 years, whether a charter commission should be established. The change would make electing a charter commission every 10 years, which is now mandatory, optional for councilors.

Ward 2 Councilor Darek Grant, who with Ward 1 Councilor Linda Conti voted against the proposed changes, said he believes changes to the charter should be reviewed and made by a charter commission.

Mayor David Rollins said the council is not taking control of the charter away from residents, because any changes to the charter, including the seven approved for the ballot Thursday, still will have to be approved by voters citywide.

“The action tonight is not to decide these issues by the City Council. All the City Council is doing is placing these questions on the ballot for the people to decide,” Rollins said. “The opportunity to amend the charter belongs to the people. The council is not taking the people out of the process. We’re not taking approval of the charter away from the citizens.”

Some city councilors expressed interest in eliminating the 10-year charter commission requirement, and instead making it optional, due to the cost and amount of time involved in a full charter commission review.

“Charter review can be an extensive process, and a costly process,” said At-Large Councilor Marci Alexander.

Stephen Langsdorf suggested previously the city’s charter has been refined over the years and that minor changes could be made without forming a charter commission.

Langsdorf has said the city wouldn’t be in violation of the charter’s 10-year commission review requirement if voters remove that requirement before the end of this year. If a majority of voters reject that change, then the city still could form a charter review commission, though the commission probably wouldn’t have time to complete its work by the end of this year.

The last charter commission formed in 2007, and voters approved charter revisions the group recommended in November 2008.

The charter specifies the structure of city government and how it functions.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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