Adopt SB2

Article 3 – SB2

 Why We Should Adopt SB2:

Because everyone should have a voice in the town’s affairs.  Unfortunately too many of our citizens are unable to attend Town Meeting.  Some work second shift; some have family at home to care for; some are out of town on business, wintering elsewhere or attending school; and some don’t drive at night or at all.  For whatever reason, attendance at Town Meeting rarely exceeds a couple of hundred voters out of our population in the area of six thousand.  I dare say that even those of us who do attend meetings know friends or family who don’t.  It is not our place to judge their reasons.  The rest of our citizens deserve to be heard.

For those who like the tradition of Town Meeting or feel that being able to discuss the issues with each other helps them make a good decision, that opportunity still exists at the first or as it is commonly known – the deliberative session. Under ‘SB2’ we get the best of both worlds – a meeting to discuss and then everyone having a vote!

For those that may want to research and find out more about an issue after hearing a point made by a fellow citizen at the meeting, this also allows the time to do so.  Under the current system, if someone brings up a point during discussion, one has to make a snap decision about it.  As someone who does speak at meetings, I would be presumptuous to expect my neighbors to accept what I have to say as gospel.  None of us are perfect, so having a break before the final vote allows research to confirm something said.  It also allows time to discuss the issues in other settings with people that couldn’t make the meeting or who perhaps just aren’t comfortable speaking in a large venue.

The bottom line is that SB2 will increase the number of us participating in our affairs.  This is a win for democracy and a win for our town.

Say No to Zoning Change

Our Town Boards need to work to make things easier for businesses to come to town.  The proposal to revamp the Zoning Ordinance is exactly what we don’t need as it will chase businesses away from Hillsborough. The proposal replaces a simple, straight forward ordinance which allows “In the commercial district …are permitted … all commercial uses”,  with a multi page chart, pages and pages of definitions and most importantly the statement: “Any use that is not listed in Table 4 …..may not be permitted to locate anywhere in Hillsborough …”  In spite of the Planning Board’s claims, it defies common sense to think that increasing regulation will attract business to our town.

Town Budget Needs Cutting

The Police Department Budget continues to grow.  The Police Department Budget is by far the largest of all the Town Departments. At $1.7 million it is about the size of the second and third largest Departments combined (Highway $1.1 million and Fire/Rescue – $750k). It is also important to note that the $1.7 million doesn’t include the dispatch budget which is another $400k+. The largest cost item in these budgets is for payroll.  The PD payroll is almost $1 million ($942k) of which $85k is planned for overtime (with additional $260k including $15k- OT for dispatch). Although concerns were raised about this amount last year, nothing appears to have been done to address these costs as both departments overspent their OT budget.  

The Selectboard, through the Business Administrator needs to do their jobs and manage in a responsible manner to bring these costs down.

Lowering the Budget

When deliberating the budget tonight I would urge that voters consider the following items in the budget for cutting:

1. – $40,000. – Approximate – Cost of ES Para that Budget proposal explained would result from combining an Office Para with an SSC para. The amount was not taken from budget however.

2. – $29,000. – Amount of increase for new computor equipment. Note this is just the amount of the increase. Still left is about $95,000 – the amount in the current budget. In addition remember that last June a portion of the ‘surplus’ was spent on new computors.

3. – $25,000. – Amount of increase of “Maintenance and Repairs’ line. Again this leaves the amount at $180,000.

4. – $4,000. – $12,000. – MS Field trips. Increasing this line $4,000 when it’s current amount of $20,000 for 3 grades of kids is about double that for the ES ($12,000. for 6 grades) or HS ($10,000 for 4 grades). Some might think this should be cut back to $12,000. – similar to the amounts for the other schools.

5. – $60,000. – Approximate cost of one ES teacher. One grade currently has 58 students spread among 4 teachers while 3 teachers would be appropriate per current policy (Try to keep under 20 per class).

6. – $13,000. – ? Professional Development. While 13k proposed increase this year might not seem like much, that is on top of last years increase nearly doubling from $88,000. to $165,000. (And how did they manage to do that with a flat budget?)

7. – ? Raises for non Union staff such as administers. Most of us still arent getting raises as the economy spuitters to a hopeful recovery, yet the district continues to give yearly raises. Can’t they get by on the same generous salary as last year just once?

It seems to me that with this quick list as a start, and with a few more items not increased we are getting close to the amount of the proposed increase. Let’s keep it level (the same as last year).