What really happened in 2011?
As the late Paul Harvey would have said: ... Now for the rest of the story.
As the chairman of the budget committee, I requested that the selectman and the school board submit their requested budgets early.
The budget committee always starts with the town’s proposed budget, but we had to wait for several weeks for them to complete it.It was presented to us piecemeal, often without documentation requested, and not in order that we asked.
Several officials and employees got “hot” when we made changes or cuts to their proposed department budgets, but we forged on.When it came specifically to the water and sewer budgets, a majority of the budget committee members wanted to put some of the money from user fees into saving for emergencies and suggested so.
The selectmen refused, insisting that they wanted to be able to spend all of revenues that would come in for the year. We did not agree with their line of reasoning, so we made approximately $40,000 in combined cuts to the budget.
Although completely segregated finances, the water and sewer departments have always been part of the town’s overall operating budget. In an unprecedented move, the board of selectmen came to the budget committee and informed us they had removed water and sewer department funds from the operating budget and were placing them on the town warrant as special articles at the higher amounts.
Clearly, this was done to override the statutory authority of the budget committee to set the base budget before deliberative session.The budget committee has no authority to remove articles from the warrant, or to amend the amounts in the articles, or to recommend different amounts. If the budget committee restored the funds to the operating budget, it would have been double budgeting.
Clearly that wasn’t an option. After asking numerous questions, we were informed that selectmen were basing their decision on information they had received. The committee then moved on with the rest of the proposed budget.
Before the town’s deliberative session in February, it was up to the budget committee to recommend or not recommend each of the money warrant articles.
The budget committee made some hard choices on each article. At this point, both the water and sewer were easy to decide. Since the selectmen had increased the amounts well beyond what we believed to be necessary, we could not with consciences honestly recommend them.
Historically, selectmen have paid out a great deal of money each year to get legal advice on the warrant articles. This time they either acted without advice, chose to ignore it, or perhaps even received bad advice. Simply put: They blew it!
To those people who expended the time and energy to place money warrant articles on the ballot (not tied to the selectmen), those funds are no longer approved by the Department of Revenue Administration.
This includes the E.L.M.M. Community Center and Forest Lake funding. It is unfortunate that they are the victims of the selectmen attempts to override the budget committee.
I have been told that the town cannot operate if these cuts stand as ordered by the DRA. I say if the elected selectmen who made bad decisions can’t make it work, then it’s for them to step down.
I have talked to many business owners in town and I believe that with responsible management we can make it work.
Call and let me know what you think: 239-8952.
168 Clark Road