The Most Important Character
Our town budget typically increases between three and five percent per year. In recent years, our Grand List grows at less than one percent per year. The Grand List is the sum of all taxable property in our town and when multiplied by the mill rate (i.e., tax rate) equals the funding for our entire town budget each year.
It is not rocket science to see that this relationship between budget growth and Grand List growth cannot continue indefinitely. When department budgets are presented, the emphasis is on keeping increases from the prior year to a minimum. “Flat” becomes the buzzword of the day. We take the most current year as gospel and go (i.e., grow) from there.
Granted, most of these increases are wages and salaries and many have contractual increases. But I think therein lies part of the problem. The norm is to look at ways to limit increases in the budget but rarely is it to look for ways to reduce the budget though efficiencies or consolidation. If our Grand List growth does not keep pace with expense growth, this trend is not sustainable. Without a fundamental shift in thinking, I believe we will continue a pattern of budget creep that will not end well.
As we are already seeing, our elderly residents, the treasures of our community, will be priced out of our community in their retirement years. People talk about the character of our town and the most important character is the people who live here. Let us redouble our efforts to make sure they can all remain as long as they wish.
Republican Justin Murphy serves on the Board of Finance.