Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Running out of Resources
The first and only time I attempted a “Move to Reconsider” on the floor of Town Meeting—where you ask the esteemed body to reconsider a previously decided article because of “new information”—occurred back in 1998.
Town Meeting had passed the Social Service charitable donation budget of around $100,000 with little discussion. The year before I had tried to cut a piece of it for “The Amherst Youth Center” that was getting the lions share ($19,000) and only had one or two kids participating, so the $39,000 salaried Director had it pretty cozy. Naturally I was practically booed from the podium.
But the Youth Center closed down in the following year (the town finally figured it out and pulled the money) so I simply abstained on the vote this time around, meaning I was in a position to attempt a reconsideration (you have to have voted in the majority or abstained on the original article.)
The Men’s Resource Center was getting a hefty amount ($10,000) and the day after Town Meeting approval, I learned they had a month earlier purchased a downtown building for a handsome six-figure sum and as a non-profit would be removing it (or most of it since I think they did rent a portion) from the tax rolls.
My pitch to Town Meeting was that we should deduct from the $10,000 donation the amount that would no longer be coming into the town treasury because of their tax-exempt status. Again I was met with blank clueless stares.
Now with the economic meltdown the town is, finally, talking about cutting the charitable contributions it makes annually to social service agencies. Amherst is of course the only community in the state that makes such contributions with tax dollars, and when you are a community with over 50% of the land owned by tax-exempts, that is not a sustainable combination.
Besides charitable giving should be an individual thing.
Taking the hint, the Men’s Resource Center announced their executive director would be joining the millions of Americans getting laid off and they will be selling that downtown building. Let’s hope to a private enterprise that will renovate it, employ folks and pay property taxes.