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.