For the first time in 15 years I will be voting against the budget. I hate doing that but a 10% increase in the Municipal budget is simply a bridge too far.
For the first time in 15 years the budget we are asked to approve significantly increases Town employee hours with no new services. It proposes to add over 1500 hours of staffing. Additionally it turns two previously part time positions into full time positions. New benefits for those positions will add over $30,000 to our costs each and every year. That is on top of the cost of the increase in hours. A combination of one person into two “part time” positions may well lead to an additional benefitted position. These are not one time expenses. They will become the baseline for all future budgets.
Last year, due to the well justified worry over the potential loss of State funding, we over taxed you by about 1.7 million dollars. At that time the common sentiment of the BOF was that, because of the dire condition of the State’s finances, we needed to wean ourselves entirely off of State funding. The suggestions proposed to accomplish that were two fold; increase the reserves in our general fund and structurally reduce our operating cost. The only way to do that is to reduce our employee costs. This budget does the opposite.
What has changed? The State has taken almost no action to reduce its financial distress yet those well founded concerns on the part of the BOF and the BOS have suddenly vanished.
If you paid attention to the budget meetings it appears that leadership of the three major boards intend to request an additional sum, probably one to two million, sometime this summer. You will not be voting on that increase this Saturday. They did not choose to put that in the budget. It will almost certainly be acted upon at a Town meeting instead of a machine vote. Clearly that is where most or all of the $1.7 million you were overtaxed last year will go. It will not go to the now forgotten concern of building up our reserves.
The tax increase you will vote on is much less than 10% THIS YEAR. The BOF has found additional sources of revenue and has reduced the cost of our health insurance by taking on a bit more risk. Those are one time fixes and will not pay for all the additional costs which will carry on into all future budgets.
For 15 years I have been proud of the small part I have played in putting forth responsible budgets and keeping the Town, unlike the State, on sound financial footing. The budget you are about to vote on is a huge step backwards.
– Kim Hanson, Selectman