Budget time for voters, too
Jan 05, 2012 | 978 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It’s a new year, and that means it’s budget time for local municipalities and schools. The month of January is traditionally the time when local boards finalize their plans for the upcoming fiscal year.

“Why,” a reader might ask, “should anyone care?” After all, budgets in general are pretty boring things, and municipal budgets can be even more boring than most. Does it really matter how much the town pays for its gravel or road salt? Are there really any reasons the average citizen should care about how their town leaders are planning to spend tax dollars?

Well, there are a number of reasons to care. Projects may be funded or not, school programs may be cut or added, or any of a wide variety of things schools and towns do may or may not happen because of how a budget is crafted.

Of course, at the very bottom line, the amount a town or school district plans to spend can have a very real impact on how much property owners will pay in taxes later this year. That affects just about everyone, even those who don’t own any property.

There will be budget votes coming up in the next couple of months. Most will be done at Town Meeting in early March, but there will be some other votes before that as well.

In advance of those votes, we encourage readers to get involved in their town’s budgeting process. Attend a meeting, of if not, stop by the town office and ask for a copy of the proposed budget.

This year, more than most, towns and school districts are going to be hamstrung by tight budgets. There are the ongoing expenses from Tropical Storm Irene that have to be dealt with, of course. But there are also hidden, less obvious costs that will affect town and school expenses. That’s why it’s important to start looking at those numbers now.

For anyone who is at all concerned about how their tax dollars are spent, we strongly urge them to not wait until they walk into a gym or town hall on Town Meeting day.

Take some time and get the information now, while the process is still in its formative stages. Ask questions of board members, offer input, and get informed. That way, there won’t be so many surprises when a town report is read for the first time, or when Town Meeting votes take place.

After all, government at its best requires informed public input. That informed input starts with an understanding of how tax dollars may be spent. The time for gathering that information is upon us.
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