To the Editor:
I read through the minutes of the 6/21/2010 Board of Selectmen meeting where they discuss the "Message of Guidance" from the Budget Committee.
In green are the comments of Selectmen
followed by my comments/opinions.
The Chairman of the Board of Selectmen said
"The board recognizes the situation we are in, but we also recognize trying to balance the needs of the community with economic reality are in contradiction at this
point." I contend that you are not grasping the 'situation'. The situation is that the Budget Committee loudly and clearly states that they expect a budget that to be at least 10% less than the current year's budget. The vote of the committee is a very strong message: eleven members for the 10% reduction, one against and two abstaining. You were there when that vote was cast and I hope you noticed how quickly the hands went up - no hesitation - no waiting to see how others voted - bam, done. I contend that it is the Budget Committee's collective opinion that economic conditions and the taxpayers cannot support the current 'lifestyle'.
Selectman Campasano said
"I think we are taking an adversarial position. We should work with the Budget
Committee." Thank you, Nick, we need to work together to support the current and future needs of the collective community and I am pleased that one member of the Board of Selectmen understands the situation we find ourselves in.
Vice Chairman D’Avanza said
"what I want to hear if someone says they can reduce a budget by 10% then show us how you can do it. Let’s hear
it." Mr. D’Avanza, many members of our community find themselves in the position of having to live on decreased means - living the reality of much deeper reductions than 10% and they manage. They are not experts in cost cutting; however, they do the best they can in the situation they find themselves in. Many businesses and government entities have faced directives to reduce budget by a stated percentage and the responsibility to implement the reductions are placed upon the operational management to sort out. I stated at the 6/15/2010 committee meeting that I do not believe that we can afford to continue to ignore the personnel lines as a place to implement some budget reductions - in short, we are obligated to meet contractual obligations; however, we are not contractually obligated to continued staffing levels in many cases. Mr. D'Avanza, there are plenty of models of how this is accomplished: layoffs, furlows, reduced hours, and contract concessions.
Chairman Gross said
"coming in with a zero percent increase will
hurt." Scott, it hurts to write a significantly larger check year after year and the taxpayers tell me over and over and loudly that they are fed up.
Selectman Fournier said
"I think you hide behind the number and don’t tell me what it
means." Steve, I am not hiding behind anything. I am playing hardball in a game where the dynamics have shifted in my favor. You know as well as I do that the only way to contain expenditures is to contain the bottom line.
Selectman Pierce said
"We could [I think that should be 'should'] have footnotes and say if we’re going to have a 10% cut then here’s what you do. Last year we were in a reactive mode. We should say up front what’s going to happen with certain
cuts." No, David, the operational implementation is upon the Board of Selectmen and the department heads, just like Nick said. I am saying that enough is enough and I believe that the voters are behind me on this one.
Selectman Campasano said
"That’s what department heads should
do." Yes, Nick, that is exactly how it is done - move the operational implementation of a strategy to the operational organization.
Mr. Gross stated "This budget committee is not advisory. It is your budget. We can say do your own budget and we can prepare our own and have a battle of the
budgets." Dear Mr. Gross, the procedure is not changing to suit you. RSA32 in no way allows what you are proposing and you have been around long enough to know that fact. Please sit down, you are out of order.
This is how the process works in a lay terms: the Budget Committee brings a budget to the voters at the the deliberative session. By law (RSA32), that is the only budget brought forward for consideration. How that budget is developed has historically been a process where the department heads come to the Board of Selectmen with their respective budgets, the Board of Selectmen make changes to reflect the interest of community and then the budget goes to the Budget Committee to prepare to take to the deliberative session. Yes, Scott, by law, you can throw the entire process into the lap of the Budget Committee but you cannot bring your budget to the people under our form of town government. Mr Gross, please stop the posturing and get down to the business at hand.
Mr. Gross said "I don’t know what the taxes will be in 20
years." Scott, none of us do; however, I am very concerned that growth of government costs outpacing the taxpayers' resources is not a trend to we can continue forever and I am implementing the concerns I hear from the voters when I participate in the budget process.
Mr. Gross went on to say
"We want and want, but we are not willing to
sacrifice." The 'we' I am in touch tells me that they are willing to do with less and the Budget Committee come in at a number that places that willingness in a concrete number.
Mr. Gross: "I don’t think 10% is
doable." Scott, think outside of the proverbial box and off your soap box. Listen to what Nick said. It can be done and the sky will not fall.