Trumbull charter changes all pass

Voters line up outside Madison Middle School before the polls open at 6 a.m. on Tuesday.

Voters line up outside Madison Middle School before the polls open at 6 a.m. on Tuesday.

Contributed photo /

TRUMBULL — All the proposed changes to the town charter were decisively approved, based on unofficial numbers from the Trumbull registrar’s office.

With the Election Day machine votes counted, Question 1 “yes” votes outnumbered “no” votes at a 5,440 to 5,235 margin. Question 2 appeared on its way to passing with a 7,824 to 4,123 difference and Question 3 was being approved by a 6,747 to 4,896 total.

At 11:15 p.m., Deputy Democratic Registrar Tom Kelly reported that most of the nearly 8,000 absentee ballots had been counted and the totals had added significantly to the approval margin, although final results were unavailable.

The recommended charter changes, about 40 in all, went to the voters as three separate questions. The one most likely to affect residents on a day-to-day basis is Question 2, which proposed increasing the Board of Education from seven members to eight, with no more than four members from any political party, and staggered four-year terms so half the board is up for reelection every two years.

Anecdotally, town officials have said the board seemed to work together better when there were six members. Adding a seventh member seemingly introduced partisan politics to a board that should be focused on Trumbull children, said Kate Donahue, who chaired the Charter Revision Commission.

The other single-issue revision was Question 3, which allows for a referendum when the town is planning a large project.

Since the 2011 revision, the charter allows for a referendum on building projects that would require the town to borrow more than $15 million. But the 2011 revision did not provide a clear means to initiate a referendum, and the language did not allow for inflation. The proposed change would build in an annual adjustment pinned to the Consumer Price Index.

Question 1, which includes all the changes not specifically outlined in questions 2 and 3, is the most complex. It includes 41 changes ranging from specifying that the word “days” when written in the charter refers to calendar days, not business days, to formalizing the line of succession if a first selectman resigns, moves out of town or dies in office.

Other changes in Question 1 include reestablishing a Youth Commission, which was eliminated in 2011, and requiring a two-thirds majority of the town council to approve changes to the number of voting districts.

“The idea was we wanted to make it harder to change the number of districts,” Donahue said.

Earlier this year, the council voted to divide its 21 members into seven districts, from the previous four. That vote carried on a simple majority. If approved, future district changes would require a two-thirds vote. Given the minority representation that limits one party to 14 seats on the 21-member council, this would virtually ensure that district changes would be bipartisan, Donahue said.