Going Forward

Going into my second  year as a selectman (2009) we faced a large budget shortfall with no way to compensate except with a tax override on the April local election ballot.

As with this most recent Town Meeting, there was a very large turnout. The voters overwhelmingly shot down the proposal. With a combination of cuts in services, sacrifices by our municipal employees and by giving our children less at school, we were able to balance the budget and make it through the year.

As I begin my third year, we find ourselves upon the horns of another budget deficit. This one is worse because we did not solve  last year’s revenue problems  Just as compound interest accelerates increases in our net worth, compound budget shortfalls accelerate the degradation of our services.

With compound budget shortfalls in mind, I supported zoning changes which I believe would have set the stage for creating a more robust and sustainable tax revenue stream and in so doing help us deal with the challenges of funding services over time.

According to the Town Clerk nearly 500 people attended town meeting on Monday, which is an excellent turn out. People overwhelmingly voted against the zoning measures aimed at maximizing the tax value of the affected properties.

Message received.

On to Other Ideas

Dwelling on the past will not help us move forward or meet our challenges. The job I was elected to do, both as a selectman and a planning board member, is to work with the members of the respective boards on behalf of the residents to run the town and shape its future.

Doing that requires me to constantly reevaluate my ideas and to adjust as necessary. Based on talking to many people throughout the town over a long period of time, on my years of public service on the planning board and the board of selectmen, and voter behavior, here’s how I see things:

Budget Realities

  • Costs to provide services to the community go up every year.
  • Revenue is trending downward.

Community Expectations

  • Municipal services will be maintained at current levels or better.
  • Infrastructure will be maintained.
  • The schools will provide an excellent education for our children.
  • Property values will increase over time.

Voter Behavior

  • Residents (residential and commercial) have said no to real estate tax increases.
  • Residents have said no to rezoning property  to increase our commercial tax base, even on Route 1
  • Residents do not want increased fees of any sort.

Conclusions

  • Expectations and voter behavior do not reconcile with our budget realities.

This leaves those of us who hold public office with a sticky wicket. We want to give the people what they want but we have to pay for it. Mouthing these words, never mind saying them out loud, seems to divide our community. They prey on our fears and erode our tolerance.

We are still working on this year’s budget. There is a little bit of time left to weigh in on its shape. As of right now there is a sizable gap between expenses and income. Unless we find mutually agreeable ways to to increase our revenue we are faced with more cuts.

Got ideas that won’t divide the community?  Send me an email. I am willing to listen and to discuss anyone’s ideas.  All I ask is to please be civil.

Zoning and April 26 Town Meeting

There are signs posted around town urging that residents vote no on all the zoning changes that will be on the Regular and Special Town Meeting Warrants on Monday April, 26.  Please be advised that the proposed changes fall into several categories and that only three of the articles seek to rezone property.

Two Meetings in One Night

There are actually two distinct meetings held on April 26: the Annual Town meeting, which will take place over several nights, and a Special Town meeting which cannot be continued beyond the 26th.  Each has its own Warrant and both contain Zoning articles. Copies will be available at the town meeting.  Download your copy here:

Special Town Meeting Warrant

The first four articles on the Special Town Meeting warrant are  Housekeeping measures. Wrentham recently updated the town’s official zoning map and there is some information which needs updating and there are some internal inconsistencies in references within various Zoning Bylaws that can only be fixed by a vote at Town Meeting.

  • Article 1 is a housekeeping motion to update the town’s orfficial Zoning Map to reflect the correct date and engineering company
  • Article 2 iis a housekeeping motion to update an incorrect reference in the existing bylaws regarding the definition of MULTIPLE ATTACHED  DWELLING.
  • Article 3 is a housekeeping motion to update an incorrect reference in the existing bylaws regarding the definition of SINGLE DETACHED DWELLING to DOUBLE ATTACHED DWELLING.
  • Article 4 is a housekeeping motion to update an incorrect reference in the existing bylaws regarding the definition SENIOR LIVING COMMUNITY

The above mentioned articles do not change our existing zoning in any way except to make sure that the various sections contained within point to the correct definitions or that the correct information is reflected in our official documents.

  • Article 5 proposes to add two Associate Members to the Planning Board as a remedy for a long standing  difficulty with  having enough members eligible to vote on Special Permit applications.  Planning Board’s public hearings stretch out over many nights and often many months.  Owing to conflicts with work and family commitments and health issues, members sometimes miss meetings. State laws requires members be present at every meeting to vote on a special permit.  Adding associate members increases the pool of eligible voters to make sure that permits are processed in a timely fashion.
  • Article 6 seeks to rezone a piece of property that has significant frontage on both 495 and Route 1.  This is a landowner petition.  Proponents say this change will bring in new tax revenue without increasing taxes for residents or affecting the country feel of the town.
  • Article 7 seeks to rezone a small piece of property on Route 1 to C1.

Annual Town Meeting

  • Article 10 is a Citizens Petition put on the warrant by the Wampum Corner property owners. They seek to modify several elements of our B1 (business) designations for this specific area. No expansion of the district is proposed. No new uses are being added. Proponents say the purpose of the change is to allow slightly larger building sizes to accommodate much needed amenities like a pharmacy or a small grocery store and to increase tax revenue. There is little traffic impact envisioned owing to the types of businesses allowed by B1 zoning.

Write-in Everett W. Skinner for Board of Health

Hi Everyone,

I am running the Board of Health as a Write-in candidate. Please vote for me on Monday, April 5.

I have a strong background in civil engineering. including septic system design and installation, storm water design and installation, and sanitary waste disposal. Plus, I am a former head of the Wrentham Department of Public works.

To vote for me, write the following on the ballot:

Everett W. Skinner
92 Wampum Street

Thank you

Everett “Bill” Skinner

PS: Please forward this to all your friends and Facebook Buddies.