I read today that Ken Harrington, a member of the Shaftsbury Selectboard, that Mr. Harrington cannot support the Town Garage Project on the basis that he is afraid school budgets may increase as much as 10% next year. School budgets have not been prepared as yet, and it is a matter of pure speculation what the schools’ next budgets will look like. Mr. Harrington may believe he is looking out for the taxpayer, but he is not doing so.
Mr. Harrington is not demonstrating the leadership we need from members of our Selectboard. In this instance, leadership means identifying the critical needs of the Town, shaping a budget to meet those needs, putting the plan to the voters, and then implementing the plan approved by the voters.
At public meetings, including the last Town Meeting, Mr. Harrington stated that the Town needed to replace the Town Garage. He argued that it could be done for less than what the Selectboard proposed. After Town Meeting, a new Garage Committee formed and found that the only way to substantially reduce the costs of the Garage Project was to scale back the Project. The Committee went to work, and after a thorough and thoughtful process, reduced the size and scope of the project to be within the financial means of the taxpayers.
Mr. Harrington’s way of thinking hurts the Town. He would defer maintenance and essential needs based on a fear that other governmental entities will ask the taxpayers for more money. Deferring maintenance is never a good idea -- it only ends up costing the taxpayer more money over the long run.
The Town has needs, and the taxpayers expect its Selectboard to meet those needs responsibly. Our citizens expect us to maintain our roads, year-round, and to maintain the equipment needed. The Selectboard has worked very hard to limit the tax burden on its citizens these past few years, level-funding the Town’s budget the past 2 years. The Selectboard is proposing a new Garage Project that will cost the Town about 1/3rd less than the original project. The new proposal will have a very small impact on taxpayers. My very rough estimate is that the tax levied to pay for the Project will be about $18. 50 on a $100,000 home and $37 on a $200,000 home.
Mr. Harrington is not providing leadership for Town government. He is acting on fear of what the schools might do, even though the schools have not formed or proposed a budget. Town government cannot function and provide its citizens with the services they need and expect if the Selectboard is constantly reacting out of fear as to what the schools might do next with their budgets. The Selectboard must fully inform the taxpayers and trust that the taxpayers will determine the merits of the Selectboard’s plans and proposals.
The Shaftsbury Garage Project is long overdue. The Committee has done an excellent job at re-crafting the project to meet the Town’s essential needs without unduly burdening the taxpayers. I thank them for their hard work over the past 8 months. I hope you will vote yes on the bond vote on Dec. 3.
LON T. McCLINTOCK