Sunday, September 23, 2007

FY09 Priorities

Select Board Meeting for Citizen Comment on FY09 Budget Priorities
September 20, 2007

Comments from Elaine B
Woodside Ave, Amherst. – 28 year resident

Inherent in this list of budget priorities is my belief that the town must strongly support increased economic development, must establish a multi-year fiscal plan including planned increases in revenue, and must make fiscally responsible choices which are based on identified priorities. Building and maintaining a strong Reserve Fund is a required responsibility of the town government in order to ensure the economic health and survival of Amherst.

No real set of priorities is going to be strictly linear, but a list is convenient way to order priorities for discussion. I hope that the Select Board will make FY09 budget decisions based on the following priority list:

1) A primary town government responsibility is to ensure the availability and safety of Water, the Sewer systems, and to protect against potential dangers to the town population’s health.

2) The second priority is providing the necessary safety for the town. The Fire Department and the Police have to have sufficient funding to serve the town well. The police budget particularly has been cut too far and must have a much higher priority than last year.

3) The third level of priority for me is the Education of the town’s children. Strong financial support of the Amherst Schools and Amherst-Pelham Regional Schools has to be one of the town’s very highest priorities not only because of its importance for the children and families in Amherst, but also for the economic health of the town.

Obviously, the Select Board does not make School budget decisions, but the Select Board needs to place education and the public schools at the top of their list of priorities because every financial choice that the Select Board makes can affect the schools and the school budgets both directly and indirectly. The Select Board’s decisions affect the town funds available for a school budget and affect the availability of other town services needed by the children and by the schools.

Every year for the past few years, all of the boards have agreed that real budget prioritizing must be done across all departments and across all budgets, not just within a single budget. Cutting every budget by the same amount each year doesn’t result necessarily in funding decisions based on the town’s actual priorities.

4) Fourth in my priority list is funding the Town services that assist the poor, the disabled, and the elderly who need assistance. This priority is different from the line item for Human Service Agency funding. This priority includes a wide range of items in a variety of budgets: some of the bus/van transportation, Bangs Center activities and services, sidewalk curb cuts and other ADA access changes, providing sufficient recreation opportunities for low socio-economic families, etc.
5)The jobs done by the Public Works Department are the set of basic services a town has to provide that individuals cannot do, or cannot do as effectively for the town. town government has the obligation of providing and maintaining roads, sidewalks, pipes, plowing, etc etc

6) Town buildings must be maintained, repaired, and renovated. Some buildings must be replaced as well for reasons of safety and efficiency.

7) Town employees must be sufficient in number to accomplish the needed work that is highest priority, and they must be paid well enough to retain valued employees. Any departments dealing with finances and town planning must have adequate staffing to do their jobs really well.

There are many more items and services to prioritize, of course, libraries, conservation dept, etc; however, the top priorities are the most critical to identify and fund, especially when money is so tight that many lower priorities will not be funded at all.

Thank you for your consideration of my list of priorities

Elaine B

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