Of the almost 500 folks who took the survey to provide feedback to town officials on the budget over the next five years a couple hundred had written "suggestions". The FCCC will publish them all unedited in an appendix of their Final Report (presented this afternoon to the Budget Coordinating Group and this evening to the Select board.) I culled these ten in no particular order of importance:
The town needs to become business friendly and develop means of generating income through technology and tourism.
Make hard choices without compromising ESSENTIAL services -- fire, police and schools.
Ask employees for a giveback on their raises
We must stop subsidizing ambulance services to Hadley and the other towns, and not accept a long-term contract in lieu of actual cost payments. We must foster economic development and business growth so that property owners are not the principal source of revenue.
No increase in budget. Aggressive initiative to change our form of government. It is dysfunctional to try to make choices by surveys. The results don't reflect to true political will of Amherst. The results only reflect those who go to meetings and fill out questionnaires . . . and there is no way for those who do participate to be assured that their concerns will be addressed our can they hold anybody accountable for choices made. Who will be held accountable for the choices made? Town Meeting? The community Choices Committee? Who and how and what consequences? Why not put all your efforts to finally changing our form of government to a fully accountable government of professional politicians that are paid and held accountable for their choices. It is the way the State, US and hundreds of thousands municipalities govern themselves. And please, don't respond that we have to work with the government we have. If you er-call, the first vote on the charter lost by 14 votes in an election where 9,000 registered voters didn't vote. If the "Choices" committee put their efforts into changing town government, perhaps two years from now we may still be in this mess, but we can be assured that choices will be made by people we know and who we can hold accountable. Jim Pitts
Prioritize better, focusing on maintaining public safety and education -- everything else is frosting on the cake. Close the branch libraries! Eliminate bus lines with low ridership; increase fees on remaining lines. Eliminate the human rights staff position, if it still exists. Increase LSSE fees to better cover costs. Close the Cherry Hill golf course. Open only one public pool in the summer, and/or charge a per-use fee (perhaps with summer pass option). Work very hard on business development, and on making sure we retain the businesses that currently exist (and generate revenue!). Quit using tax dollars for charity donations, that's inappropriate when we can't pay our own basic bills. Charge the farmer's market sellers a fee for use of the land each week. Pay attention to the fact that Hadley doesn't have a revenue problem -- I don't want to live in Hadley (weak schools, poor zoning), but they are very smart to use business development to create a strong tax base. We can be smarter about zoning, but still see some business growth.
Close branch (North and South) libraries Reduce budget at main library Negotiate for more money (PILOT) from UMass, Amherst and Hampshire colleges Renegotiate town employee’s wages/salaries and health insurance to lower cost Elementary Schools Reduce Special Ed program Make fee based ALL after school programs (academic and extra curricular) Regional Schools Eliminate and/or make fee based Russian and German language programs and Make fee based ALL after school programs (academic and extra curricular) Reduce Special Ed program
Increase tax base through business development, focus on core services, move to a mayoral form of government that provides greater accountability to the budget process.
Stop spending! This is not easy, nor is it popular but it must happen. Our town asks too much of its taxpayers. When times were more prosperous, we could better afford the wonderful services we have. Now, times are tough in the US and the world and we need to be satisfied with much less. We are ready for a mayor who has the skills to make the really difficult and unpopular decisions that need to be made. Amherst can remain a beautiful, New England college town without all the "extras" we have come to expect in the past. Please act responsibly and stop overspending!
Town should lives within its means--like any family budget.