Letter: Debate budget on merits
Published 10:54 am, Friday, May 11, 2012
Listening to the RTM members at their April 30 meeting, I'm confused about how many of you perceive your jobs. You lamented not knowing the effects of any departmental budget reduction; it isn't your responsibility to know. That is the job of the department managers. The request before you was to consider sending a gentle nudge to them, to the Board of Finance, and to the selectmen, that the spending is too high; business as usual won't work.
You can't look at our ever-growing debt, on the verge of a downgrade, and believe it's sustainable. It's obvious, or should be, that the rating agencies see that we grow debt every year, and taxes to service it, as well as increased cost for the same services, and increased costs for new services. They know what you don't seem willing to consider: that taxes cannot go up ad infinitum. Their advice -- shore up our contingency funds -- lends further credence to this claim. They've determined that our spending habits so outweigh potential revenues, that the next natural disaster, or unforeseen expensive circumstance, could call into question our ability to make good on our debt.
You don't owe taxpayers an answer as to what will change due to a cut. You do owe us an explanation of what service you feel is so important that you are willing to move us towards an increased likelihood of insolvency to protect.
I want to have faith in you and our system. I can only get that if you debate the actual questions raised by a spending reduction motion. The debate should have been whether we have a spending problem, whether we need to cut our tax increases, and how do we change the charter to not make you responsible to reduce departments' budgets line by line. Instead, the debate was why you aren't responsible for fiducial responsibility! You are! That is why you vote on budgets! It's checks and balances! We're asking you to consider checking the executive branch, to keep balance! Taking the position that you can't be held responsible for effects you cannot possibly know seems like a cop out. Taking turns repeating the same argument isn't even a debate.
Honestly, I don't think requesting consideration of a spending reduction was unreasonable. You've requested a 5 percent to 20 percent increase in my tax bill every year I've lived here. Some of us ask you to consider a request to increase only 3 percent, rather than 5 percent, and you act as if we chopped off your arm. It was just a request for consideration. Please, drop the hyperbole and cop-outs, and have an honest and intellectual debate of merit, on merit.
With apologies for any harsh sentiment, and the greatest appreciation for all your hard work,