Friday, October 17, 2008

Override saber rattling begins

A Modest Proposal?

Mr. Jackson mistakenly referred to the May 1, 2007 amount as a “modest million”. Actually it was for an immodest $2.5 million. He also suggests s the need for a $3 million Override now and even then that would only amount to $3.3 million in five years. Of course the math he does not do is five years down the road the town will have had over $15 million in additional revenue if Mr. Jackson’s Override passes this spring.

He also mentions the “almost $5 million” we currently have stashed in reserves (not including the over $1 million the Regional School has stashed in their reserves) but, curiously considers that amount “unrealistic to think we can use it to bridge the budget gaps in any substantive way going forward.”

Well if the budget gap for next year is only $2.7 million and we have almost twice that amount stashed in savings accounts then that is a pretty easy gap to bridge.

Curiously on May 1, 2007 our reserves stood at $4.3 million. And the projected revenues shortfall back then was $3.7million (as opposed to the modest $2.7 million we hear about today) and of course after the Override failed the Regional Schools ended up the year with a $1 million surplus that they instantly spent on one-time big-ticket items.

Note to Phil: the sky is not falling and the wolf is not among the fold.


Jonathan said...

Well if the budget gap for next year is only $2.7 million and we have almost twice that amount stashed in savings accounts then that is a pretty easy gap to bridge.

Are you seriously suggesting that we spend more than half of our remaining reserves to bridge an ongoing $2.7M structural deficit in our operating budget?

LarryK4 said...

I'm not seriously suggesting anything, other than the fact I don't take town officials very seriously with their gloom and doom predictions.

The fact of the matter is that reserves can more than cover next year's "projected" deficit. End of story.

What the Hell is the point of a "rainy day" fund if you never want to spend it (even when it is raining)?

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to the Amherst Plan, the override to end all overrides?

- Ryan Willey

LarryK4 said...

That is the $2.5 million one that crashed and burned on May 1, 2007. And notice there were no layoffs, no closing of public buildings and we ended up with a surplus in both the schools and general government at the end of that apocalyptic year.

Anonymous said...

Exactly my point the Amherst Plan was not passed and we are still here. I agree that operational cost such as heating oil, teachers salaries, and such continue to rise. What this ordinary citizen would like to see is more imaginative cut backs, three libraries, for what? Rent the building out to artisans who will teach classes for profit, get people off the couch and get them spinning clay, or wood working something. There are lot's of options but all they give us is raising our taxes. How about no!


Rick said...

This still applies:

Whether or not more revenue is needed to fund “level services” is one question (e.g. are projections any good? - apparently they were lousy in 2007).

But if revenue is truly needed, we should not be shocked that property taxes are where it needs to come from. Sooner or later 2.5% doesn’t cut it, especially while state aid to towns has been cut since 2002 and beyond-our-control costs such as health care increase at a rate way above 2.5%.

Also, we’ve been getting state and federal tax cuts that more than offset a property tax increase due to an override. The total tax (fed + state + local) is what should be looked at over time, not just property taxes.

A better answer is to increase state income tax back to where it was pre-2002, then turn around and get state aid to towns back to where it was. Property taxes are a lousy way to finance schools because it pits property-owners-with-kids against property-owners-without-kids. But a state income tax increase is obviously looking as unlikely as it gets.

Anonymous said...

i realized after the fact that i had mis-stated the override amount.

the point i was trying to make, which i clearly didn't, is that an override of modest proportions compared to the previous amount that was rejected would be required under the level services or restoration scenarios would be significantly higher.

given the economic times, i don't see people looking to support a $5-8 million dollar override.

i believe that the department heads should be required to make the decisions about what to do with their budget amounts. asking the community what it wants is an exercise in futility, in my opinion.

let me be clear: i am NOT in favor of an override. i have consistently stated in columns for more than three years now that we need to live within our means and make tough choices.

i am inclined to support the level FUNDING scenario. i am not willing to throw more money into the pot just because.

phil jackson

LarryK4 said...

Glad to hear it Phil. Yeah, I was a tad surprised when I read your column as I always thought you were physically conservative (but you do have to work on clarity in writing)

Indeed, I'm not a big fan of surveys--especially when the ballot can be stuffed; and yes department heads should make the tough choices, that is why we pay them the big bucks.

Anonymous said...

"...I always thought you were physically(?) conservative (but you do have to work on clarity in writing)"

I really hope that this was an intentional joke. Otherwise it is just too funny.

LarryK4 said...

Well...considering folks who know Mr. Jackson and his ARHS football background I should say "Yeah it was an inside joke"; but no it was one of those Saturday morning responses after having spent most of the late night trying to get my youngest daughter to sleep.

Come to think of it, maybe I should have written "clarity of thought" (where spelling ain't such a big deal.)

Anonymous said...

i don't think reserves are made for paying the bills. do we need three libraries, two pools, four elementary schools, empty busses to and from the outer reaches of town, and etc.? i think it's time to face facts and freeze the budgets. it's only then that we'll see the true impacts, and when they are bad enough, then we'll see what people want to pay. but the scenarios presented would need an override of $5+ million and there's no way that's happening.

Anonymous said...

The level funding scenario Phil Jackson supports would not require any override. Just cuts.

Anonymous said...

I see that nobody has responded to Rick's point. There have been tax cuts on the federal and state level to offset any property tax increase. When we look at overall tax burden, a lot of the basis for the resistance in town gets exploded.

But,among the Ten Commandments these days:
Thou shalt never question the man (or woman) who complains about taxes.

So we all knuckle under to Larry and his anti-taxer flagwavers, as appears to be happening with the so-called "sensible center" on Question 4.

And yes, Jonathan, he does seriously suggest that we spend over half our remaining reserves to bridge the ongoing structural deficit in our operating budget. He dodges when it suits him.

Rich Morse