Editorials published by the Goffstown Residents
Association are written by various members and
contributing non-members of the GRA.

Why aren't Line Items enforced in Goffstown budgets?

November 15, 2007

Imagine you're working for a $50M corporation.  You tell your boss that in order to properly run your shipping department next year, you'll need a new forklift and a new computer system. 

Your boss sharpen's his pencil, denies you the money for the computer system, but authorizes the purchase of the forklift and hands you the money to buy it.  You then take that money and go out and buy the new computer system anyway, and say "to hell with the forklift".

That's what's going on in Goffstown.

In the aforementioned scenario, what do you think your boss would do once he found out you misspent the funds he authorized for the forklift purchase?  It'd be 'Hasta la vista, baby' - you'd be out of a job within seconds.

Consider a couple more hypothetical examples: In Goffstown, the school district can include a line in their budget requesting $30K for, say, science books, be granted the money for those science books, but then use it to buy laptops for school board members instead, if they so desired.  Goffstown's DPW, as another example, could include a line request to buy a new loader, be granted the money to buy it but then use it instead to buy a couple of sidewalk plows, if that's what they decided to do with it.

Goffstown's system of budgeting is wrong.  Totally wrong.  Our budget process not only needs reform, it needs a complete overhaul.

At least selectmen took a slightly different approach this year than in the past when conducting their budget deliberations.  Rather than looking at the requested increases by Town department heads (and those requests totaled nearly $2M in increases!) and cutting items from those requests, they instead began with the default budget, reviewed the requested increases individually and decided whether or not to grant them.  

It is a small difference to be sure, but it is at least some indication that the mindset of the Board of Selectmen (except for that of Phil D'Avanza of course, who objected to this new approach - something which came as no surprise to us) is trying to send a message, albeit a small one - to town department heads that increases in their budgets can not, should not and will no longer be, givens, and that instead of fighting to prevent a cut in their requests, they are now going to have to prove the merits of them in order to obtain approval.

But this is far from addressing the underlying problem:  Department heads in Goffstown are not required, for the most part, to adhere to their own budget line items when spending their budgets.

In our view, if one of Goffstown's departments requests - and is granted - a line of funding for a particular purchase or expenditure, then those funds should either be spent on that specific line item or be returned to the taxpayers.  Period.

We elect our selectmen and budget committee members to perform just such a service to the taxpayers, i.e., decide what is needed and what is not, and then authorize or deny the spending accordingly.  But the way things work in our budget process, a request for spending on one item can be denied while another item is approved, yet department heads can completely ignore such authorizations and generally spend their final, overall budgets however they please.

This is not in the best interests of Goffstown, or Goffstown's taxpayers.



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  Copyrightę 2007, Goffstown Residents Association.  All Rights Reserved.


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Copyrightę 2007, Goffstown Residents Association.  All Rights Reserved.