Collaboration and Compromise
Looking at Madison’s fiscal challenges, it’s vitally important that we make decisions based on sound economic principles. As both a businessman and Board of Finance candidate, understanding the impact of demographics is critical. Madison remains a sizable shoreline community, but it’s contracting. Moreover, there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of families with school-aged children. A fiscally responsible approach to town management must address both issues. It must be a balance of appropriate spending limits and sound investments.
For example, if we look at the size of the school budget, it may appear we are being short-sighted in the face of shifting demographics. However, Madison’s school budget has fixed costs that exceed neighboring towns due in large part to the deferred maintenance of our aged facilities and resultant increased operating expenses. (Remember, ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away; it usually makes it worse.) Our school programming costs are close to the average for competing towns. We need to adopt a fiscally responsible facilities plan that both minimizes future fixed costs and includes improvements that will attract younger families who would otherwise choose our neighboring towns.
It’s also important to note that the Board of Education submitted a budget plan that addressed our demographic shifts and represented a zero-percent increase. During the same period the town budget increased by seven percent and resulted in an increased tax rate for Madison’s citizens. An increase of this size without allocations for attracting new families was, frankly, irresponsible.
Preservation of our local economy will require collaboration and compromise. We need to both attract families who seek quality education and commit to town spending that is mindful of our demographics. We need to be successful in this or Madison will transition to a high mill-rate, low property-value community.
Democrat John Picard is seeking a seat on the Board of Finance in the November elections.