To the editor:
Tonight, a proposal will be made to postpone the Town Meeting because of the uncertainties created by the coronavirus. If not possible, a second proposal will be made to “pass” on financial proposals until we know the results of Fiscal Year 2020, ended June 30th. I am in favor of both with exceptions noted below.
Why? I have great concern about how our townspeople have been affected by job losses, income reductions, lack of healthcare. We can ill-afford to commit to over $30 million dollars of operating expenditures. We have no assurance as to what revenues will offset the tax rate. The sustainability of our businesses is also a major question. How can we collect normal “local revenues” when businesses have been closed or curtailed? What will the State contribute?
Many financial uncertainties support a delay in approving this large increased budget. Among other things, union contracts asking for 3-year salary increases should be not be ratified by the Select Board until funding issues are known. (As usual, the Town website home page DOES NOT present a summary of the financial obligations that the town would be committing to, nor the tax impact.) Even a 1/12th budget may be too much, and if deficits occur, our bond rating could be affected.
Exceptions: CPA projects using funds reserved from prior years can be passed as well as capital expenditures for roads and bridges.
What are we doing? We continue to drive out the middle class by making taxes unaffordable, yet we want to fund affordable housing. How incongruous is that?
We need to vote on an austerity budget. WE DON’T HAVE ONE. Why are Lee and Lenox taking more drastic measures, but Great Barrington does not?
We must postpone voting on annual budget items until our priorities are reevaluated and the financial results have been released for fiscal year ending on June 30th.
Please stand for responsible budgeting and tax policy.