Take the time
to learn about the budget process
As the budget season gets into full swing in Goffstown, it has become more apparent to me as
an elected member of the Budget Committee that many folks in town don't fully understand the
budget process and how it all works. Here are a few things residents should consider:
you know that since Goffstown is an SB-2
(Senate Bill 2) town, spending lines in our
budgets are meaningless? That means
money assigned to a particular spending line
can be spent on any other line at the
discretion of department heads. And in
special instances, money can even be moved
across entire departments, regardless of what
the Budget Committee directed;
you know that our town and school budgets
often contain appropriations for personnel who
do not exist? This is especially true in
the school budget which often contains many
lines for teaching positions that are either
vacant or proposed as new additions.
Keep that in mind when you hear people
complain that the Budget Committee "cut
teachers". Most often, we've done
nothing of the kind. Instead, we've cut
appropriations assigned to those empty
positions, and no teachers are eliminated.
you know that SAU 19's administration budget
accounts for over $1.1 million of the overall
school budget, but cannot be adjusted by the
you know that even if the Budget Committee
denies a request for spending on a particular
item, the item can be purchased anyway using
money designated for other items?
you know that prior to the March vote, the
Budget Committee presents its proposed budgets
at a January public hearing? That's
where the public can ask questions and make
their opinions known to the Budget
Committee. And after taking public input
at that hearing into consideration, the Budget
Committee makes its final adjustments to the
budgets, then presents them to voters at town
and school deliberative sessions in early
you know that at those at deliberative
sessions, the Budget Committee's budgets can
be adjusted up or down by the public prior to
the March vote? And those changes then
appear on the ballot in March. That
means the miniscule percentage of voters who
actually attend deliberative sessions (I've
seen as few as a dozen attendees) can make
changes to the budgets that affect
over 12,000 registered voters come
March? So it's not only important to
come out and vote in March, but also to attend
these early February deliberative sessions and
vote there as well. Otherwise, the
disparity between the proposed and default
budgets you will be choosing between could be
you know that the proposed school budget
presented to the Budget Committee contains
over 1,200 specific line items, and that those
line items are only roll-ups from hundreds of
other, more detailed lines?
you know that the largest town-side budget is
the Public Works budget, and the smallest is
Parks and Recreation?
Another point needs
to be made about our budget process: As
advocates for the Goffstown taxpayers, the Budget
Committee does not simply "...decrease the
budget randomly" as was stated by a
member of the public at our last meeting. If
it were that simple, we could get the entire
process over with very quickly by just throwing a
dart and heading home for the rest of the
year. To the contrary, the Budget Committee,
a group of four appointed members and twelve
unpaid, elected volunteers, deliberate for hours
on end, sometimes over minor budget line items, to
arrive at a practical, affordable and sensible
budget - a very difficult thing to
achieve during these trying financial times.
I have already spent nearly fifty hours of my
personal time - beyond committee meetings -
scrutinizing and analyzing the budgets presented
to us, line by line, as many other committee
members are also doing. We don't do it
because we enjoy it. We do it because it is
what we were elected to do. We do it because
it is our responsibility to come up with a budget
that 1) is affordable to the taxpayers, and 2)
does not compromise services to
As one can imagine, this is a delicate and
difficult balancing act, and in the end, the
Budget Committee will never please everyone.
But residents should be reminded that whatever
budgets the committee does come up with in the end
will be budgets that were developed after
exhaustive exercises that the average resident
does not engage in.
That's why you elected us to do it for you.
That's why you put your trust in us to represent
your best interests.
Over the next two months or so, special interests
on both sides of our town and school budgets will
line up opposite each other, all spouting quotes,
statistics and studies that support their
respective points of view. Few will be
based in fact. Familiar
scare tactics by both will be dusted off for reuse and be
shouted from the top of Mt. Uncanoonuc. Some
will say we are over-policed, others will point to
increasing crime nationwide. Others will say
our student-teacher ratio is unacceptable while
others will point to government studies indicating
the opposite. In the end, none of it
All that will matter are the numbers.
Numbers don't lie.
Would I like to see a fire station on every block
and a police officer on every corner?
Sure. Would I prefer a student-teacher ratio
of 1-to-1 and new computers every year for each
If we can afford it.
There are many more intricacies involved in Goffstown's budget process than
those I've outlined
here. To learn more, every member of the Budget Committee stands ready to answer any
questions you may have. Just visit www.goffstown.com for a listing of all 16 members.
And if you'd like to contact me personally, I can be reached anytime at
GuyCaron@comcast.net or by
phone at 497-5900.
The more knowledge you have about the process, the better you will understand how the budgets
you're voting on were derived, and the more informed vote you will be casting.
Guy Caron can be
reached via e-mail at: GuyC@GoffstownResidentsAssociation.com
Columns by Guy Caron
DISCLAIMER: The opinions
expressed by Mr. Caron are not necessarily those of the
Goffstown Residents Association or its members.
Copyrightę2010 Goffstown Residents Association. All Rights Reserved.