Once again it’s time to authorize the spending of money for 2013. I have several issues I would like to present.
The school budget: The requested budget is down almost $31,000, but the base tax will be rising at least 2.67%. The Legislature has not officially set the final cost per pupil and tax rates as of yet, but they quite possibly could increase the per pupil cost to $9151 along with raising the tax rate an additional 2 cents. This increase would drive the school tax rate up 4.90%, but would generate $23,692 in extra, unneeded revenues for the school district. This makes no sense to me. The taxpayers will be mandated to raise their school tax in order to provide extra revenue for the school that is not needed. We would kitty the money and roll it over as a fund balance to apply to future budgets. No wonder districts in the penalty box complain.
The municipal budget: The $204,000 of money remaining from the sale of the Electric Co is being targeted for the Machinery Fund and upkeep of Town Buildings. As I will point out later, the condition of the municipal equipment is becoming very costly.
The $786,697 requested to operate the town seems in line. We are being asked for $50,000 more for the bridge fund. Bridge #32 is expected to be completed in 2014 and we are obligated to 10% of its rising costs. The present fund will not complete the job and we most likely will need to supplement it again next year to complete the project.
The work that has been done in the cemeteries in recent years has made a very positive impact. The $7,000 is a worthwhile investment.
A request for personal protective equipment by the fire department for $10,000 should not be taken lightly. Volunteers who serve the community should be given the proper equipment to ensure their safety while doing so. The town has not had a real need to update in quite a while and once the equipment is in place, it may not be required for some time to come.
The fire department is also asking the voters to set up a reserve fund, along with $50,000 in funding to save towards the purchase of a new fire truck in 2021. They presently have two more years on a loan for the last truck ($41,000). To me, if I had $50,000 and owed $41,000 on my old vehicle, it would seem financially beneficial to pay off the old one and save for the next, but not do both simultaneously.
As a matter of note, in 2011 the town spent $23,300 in parts and supplies for its equipment and in 2012 that rose to an astonishing $60,000. Last year the fire department paid only about $2,000 in repairs for their trucks. Ten pieces (municipal ) require $60,000 while three (fire) only need $2,000. Where is the need to update?
This speaks to the fact the municipal equipment is in poor shape and needs more financial support than saving for a fire truck eight years out. Once the last fire truck is paid off and the municipal equipment is updated with the electric sale money, maybe that would be a better time to start saving for a fire truck?
Last, the $6,500 for fireworks is problematic for me. The fire department used to sponsor the festivities for many years and profited very little. In 2012 the financial report shows the weekend just about broke even. If it broke even, why is the town being asked to subsidize it with $6,500? That means if 2013 goes as 2012, they will have profited the $6,500 the town spent on fireworks, and what becomes of that money?
We need to approach Town Meeting not only as a meeting to spend money, but to spend money wisely.