This post sets forth the responses of the Selectboard candidates running for for the three-year seat on the topic of the Town budget. See this post for the responses of candidates for the two-year seat. [The five-question Questionnaire is here. The budget question is the last one.]
Budget. The Selectboard sent to the voters a FYE 2020 Town budget of $4,271,793. Although the amount of the budget declined by about 5%, the property tax rate [without the separate monetary Articles for various nonprofit organizations] is projected to increase by 1.51%. For John and Linda: How did you vote on that budget and why? For Doug and Roger: How would you have voted on that budget and why?
I voted no. We were able to reduce the budget to cover our overages this time. We need to increase our revenues and find other ways to cover our budgets.
I think greater clarification and communication needs to happen around our budgeting process. For example, I believe many taxpayers will be confused about why their tax rate is projected to increase despite the budget decrease. By way of explanation: due in part to continual costs from storm damage that took place on July 1, 2017, and faced with certain unknowns relating to FEMA reimbursement, the Selectboard made the decision to largely level-fund the designated fund balances.
I am concerned that altering the appropriations to these funds without making major cuts to the operating budget will just push this problem to the next budget season, though I, too, understand the need to balance our town services with being fiscally responsible.
There were several instances in this year’s budget where a department’s line item was insufficiently explained. It is important that next year’s budget demonstrates to the taxpayer that every line item has a committed purpose and that funding dollars are valued. Often, a budgeted expense was proposed based on an assumption about our community’s desire for a certain level of service. Next year, the Selectboard should work more closely with our Town Manager to make sure our department heads have early and reliable citizen feedback for their budget preparation, to ensure that there is no budgetary waste on unwanted services.
A candidate forum, sponsored by the Norwich Women's Club, is scheduled for Tuesday February 26 from 7-8:30 pm. The meeting has been moved to the new training room at the fire station. Per the Chief of Police: There is limited parking at the Public Safety Facility. Please try and ride with someone and please do not park on Fire House Lane or park as to obstruct Police or fire department vehicles from coming and going.