What to do with the town budget?
Residents and town officials have been debating how to get the town’s finances under control after seeing a 15% hike in the preliminary 2013 budget.
There are valid arguments being made on both sides of the conundrum.
Supervisor Peter Parsons presented a budget proposal with a double-digit percentage increase because he believes that the town is responsible for providing a certain level of service, mainly regarding the condition of the town’s roads.
The people in his corner are looking around saying, ‘what else is there to cut?’ At some point there just isn’t anything left to slash away, right?
At the same time, at some point there has to be a consensus that things need to change and that some things have to be tossed from the budget.
Finding that balance is no enviable task.
One thing is for certain: finding ways to consolidate services and make operations run more efficiently is a must if future budgets are going to stop ballooning. Various departments in town will have to share equipment and manpower, with some employees wearing multiple hats. Maybe that means making some staffers seasonal or part-time.
However, the town must reach some consensus about what its priorities are. You can’t say that you’re committed to repaving the town’s roads and repairing equipment and then eliminate the funding for those tasks. Taking care of the roads and repairing town equipment are not things that should be borrowed for; if they’re going to be done, then provide for them in the budget. If they’re not accounted for in the budget, then they don’t get done.
The Town Board needs to make up its collective mind about these issues. In trying to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. If the board members decide that the road and highway department equipment repairs are not enough of a priority to put in the budget, then stand firm on that assessment.
But if those items are just going to end up being completed through bonding, then they’re important enough to be included in the budget.
Forget whether or not the budget would break the 2% tax cap; that’s a limit that is great in theory but not always realistic or practical. Instead of focusing on some 2% barrier, the board should concentrate on budgeting for what is necessary, what makes the most fiscal sense, and what is responsible as a level of service for its residents.