Falmouth’s Town Council recently voted to outsource the assessment function to Cumberland County, an action I believe exceeds its authority under the Town Charter. This is a serious matter, since the charter is our municipal constitution; it establishes our form of government, describes its powers, and defines the limits of its powers. It is an important document approved by the voters; it is not a set of guidelines or suggestions to be rationalized away when it becomes inconvenient.
Section 204.2 says the council may “change and abolish offices, departments or agencies, other than the offices, departments and agencies established by this Charter.” Further, the Council “may not discontinue or assign to any other office, department or agency any function or duty assigned by this Charter to a particular office, department or agency.”
Of the dozens of departments and boards in Falmouth, seven are established by the charter and enjoy this protection: town manager, School Board, Division of Assessment, Board of Assessment Review, Planning Board, Board of Zoning Appeals, and Long Range Planning Committee. To outsource one of these protected entities directly violates Section 204.2, and implies the others could be fair game in the future.
Some of my fellow councilors, all of whom I respect, disagreed, citing a letter from the town attorney blessing this action. However, that letter inexplicably never mentions Section 204.2, nor addresses its restrictions. I urge the council to reconsider this action, or send it to the voters, as the charter requires.
Town Councilor Russ Anderson