What is the state of our foundation?

The first budget workshop is a wrap.

The commission made a lot of ground last night thanks to those who put a lot of hard work into bringing so many murky budget items to the light and pushing for an explanation of what would have otherwise been glossed over as “budget speak”. Bravo! I believe all who watched this unfold have a much better understanding of what’s going on behind the scenes thanks to some prodding on our behalf by Commissioner Longtin. Once again, she came very well-prepared to hold everything to account. This was invaluable. Without her scrutiny, the TRIM rate (Truth in Millage) for the proposed tax notices and Commissioner Rumsey’s pushback regarding job cuts and suggestions for saving town jobs would have been the main focus of the night. There certainly was much more to be concerned about though, wasn’t there?

I hope the citizens of the town are keeping tabs as to who is digging, thinking, doing homework and giving the town something to think about among the commission. Our eyes should be opening to the current premise that underlies what goes on at Town Hall.

And once again we MUST go back to the premise. The foundation is critical. Please get this. Everything builds upon our Town foundation. When the foundation starts shifting and our attention and our money get redirected, our town is weakened. Once cracks form or something gets washed away, it won’t be long before there is nothing solid left to rely upon.

Does the ground feel a little mushy to you?

Before we go any further in future meetings on budget particulars, it is imperative that we understand the purpose of Town Government. Without a standard, the loudest or most intimidating voice in the room who holds sway over the majority will spend in whichever way their heart bleeds.  In town government, the majority has the ability to alter the Town foundation. The people must be vigilant or standards will change. Without a proper understanding of the government’s role, there is no stopping the justification of more and more “must haves” in an effort to “Move Forward”. It is our job to hold all commissioners responsible to “the standard” before it turns completely upside down and inside out.

A town government’s purpose is to serve the people of the town not to serve its employees. At the end of the workshop last night, I was left with the overwhelming sense that the main concern was for the good of town employees rather than the good of the town. This should stop everyone in their tracks and make them question the premise upon which we base our spending. This isn’t supposed to be the feel good movie of the year, it’s a practical service undertaking. Laws, roads, sewer, safety, and items of this nature should be our focus. Government is not meant to be charity. Please, let’s get this right and remind our leaders of this. There are countless outlets towards which money could flow, but how about let’s run the town right with the money folks pay for such services and let the people add to that as THEY will on their own, rather than upending the system and making it run the show.

How about instead of the taxpayers as a whole being forced to invest in town employees, let’s hold the town employees accountable for serving and investing in the town as they’ve been hired to do. Let’s put our focus back on the foundation, our town. How about making our money go for town services and let charity come from individuals toward individuals if and when it is needed, as THEY see fit, not as our town government deems it. Charity is a personal matter. It comes from individuals, churches and other private organizations, not the government. Any employee or commissioner who wants to give up THEIR pay for another is always free to do so. Please do not redistribute my money for your causes. Please use it for basic services.

So, isn’t a town’s basic role to enforce laws and carry out state legislation? Isn’t the town supposed to create ordinances specific to the town’s needs, protect the citizens, tax as needed to pay for services and deliver the services mandatory for the town to function properly, such as police, fire, sanitation and building safety inspections? Many of the salaries we pay are from another economic era. Many of them need serious reconsideration, including the benefits. Why do we talk so much about necessary cuts as if to say “Oh woe, this is how it used to be in the good old days, please feel for us.” Please, could we instead face the reality of “what is” and deal with it? Enough with all the heart strings and violins. We all know there used to be more. Well, now there’s less. Let’s get over it and live according to our means as a town, just as we all must do in our personal lives.

I suggest the people of this town engage in and demand some repair to our foundation and in a hurry. I’m not advocating a lack of concern for people, I’m advocating personal concern in those matters and a greater concern by the town for our foundation which will strengthen each and every individual within the town to in turn care for others. The town’s responsibility is not to ensure prosperity for employees, rather to provide the foundation for opportunity for the whole town. People will then be free to make prosperity themselves and share it with others as they see fit.

Last night, one indication that our foundation is in jeopardy was a certain lack of knowledge by the Town Manager about the Police and Fire manpower on the street (in the case of the Sheriff’s officers) and how the Fire Department appropriates its personnel during calls. Town safety and security should be top priority! The “iffy” knowledge of  public service particulars by the Town Manager was frightening, yet all things related to money, grants, the value placed on lobbyists, etc. was there at the tip of her tongue. This should concern us.

I appreciated Commissioner Rumsey’s concern for individuals within town employ whose jobs might be cut, and the Town Manager’s desire not to have to look an employee in the eye and tell them they will have to pay more for their family’s insurance, but the Town Manager emphatically shot down Mr. Rumsey’s suggestion that she reconsider one of her own hefty benefits to help others keep theirs (which she claimed was of extreme concern to her). She is paid $575.00 a month for her car allowance alone. That is drop in the bucket of her overflowing benefits as town manager. It seems often the case with those whose hearts go out to others in public, that when it’s someone else’s money paying for it, they are advocates in the first degree, yet ask for their wallet and see what answer you get. I saw no indication that the Town Manager was willing to follow up on her verbal concern with sacrifice from her own (approximately) $185,000 salary which includes health, pension, travel, car, cell phone, etc. to back up her stated concern. It was encouraging though to see those on the commission WERE willing to further reduce their own salaries through furlough days to help save money despite the fact that they make very little for the jobs they do on our behalf.

Please contact each of the commissioners and let them know where you stand on matters of our town’s foundation. You will have two opportunities yourself in September to speak out at budget hearings. Please prepare. Shore up your resolve. We are in for a long two years ahead, and as it stands right now if we don’t do something, the foundation may be unrecognizable by the time of our next election if someone doesn’t start making some repairs.