The budget approved by the Selectboard, to be voted on by residents at Town Meeting, is less than one percent higher than last years budget, which is pretty good in the abstract. Before getting too far away from the process, thought I post some impressions. This one is about Claudette’s list -- an opportunity lost. Later posts are about the Listers budget and Storm Damage Debt.
Remember the Finance Committee, the fiscal watchdog that died not from lack of interest by residents but because the Selectboard typically ignored its recommendations. This budget season, Claudette Brochu suffered the similar fate of not being listened to. She presented the Selectboard with a list of proposed cuts and/or questions about specific line items
regarding the budget. The Selectboard praised it. At the December 13 meeting, Selectboard member Cook suggested it be a separate agenda item at the next meeting, according to the CATV video. Selectboard member Pepper called the list “substantial” and “important”. [See CATV video from about 39 minutes to 48 minutes into the meeting.]
So what happened? Absolutely nothing. The Selectboard approved the budget at the next meeting without a peep about Claudette's List. Budget fatigue? Asked and answered? Lack of interest? Unknown. To be fair, the Town Manager responded to Ms. Brochu but Selectboard members did not have that response in time to review it before the meeting.
Here what Ms. Brochu said in an email:
Regardless of Herb's line item response, it was up to any one of the board members to decide if they wanted to address any or all points. To my regret, none did. Why, I am not sure. Too much reliance on past budgets and past voter approval? Lack of critical review and assessment of the budget? Over reliance on the TM to review the and assess requests? Who knows. An opportunity was lost to cut the budget.
Lost opportunity? Yes.