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Petition article seeks to abolish Budget Committee

  • New Ipswich Town Office Ashley Saari—Staff photo by Ashley Saari



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, January 15, 2018

A New Ipswich resident has put forth a petition warrant article to disband the town’s budget committee – a move Select Board members say they support.

Jim Hicks approached the board at their most recent meeting with a petition signed by 30 residents – 25 registered voters are needed to submit a warrant for consideration at Town Meeting – asking the town to disband the committee, less than a handful of years after the town voted to form one.

The town voted in favor of an official Budget Committee in 2014. Prior to that, the Select Board had a Budget Advisory Committee. The difference between the two is that while the Advisory Committee made recommendations to the board, the Select Board had the final say in setting the budget and appointing members of that board. Budget Committee members are voted in by the public, and it is their budget that goes before the voters.

“I guess it’s fair to say I didn’t believe in it to begin with,” said Hicks in an interview with the Ledger-Transcript. “If you vote for the Selectmen, you should give them the full powers they need to run the town.”

Brian Somero, Chair of the Bu dget Comm ittee, said that the committee had proved its merit in the years since it became official. He said the the selectmen’s recommendation have become more reasonable in the years since it’s been in place.

“They’re a little more aware that someone is looking at them. The budget has been coming down,” said Somero.

Select Board member John Veeser got his start in town politics on the Budget Advisory Committee, and then the Budget Committee. 

“I feel that the advisory committee and, initially, the Budget Committee, were a valuable tool,” said Veeser. “But it’s no longer working as intended.”

Veeser said he was referring to the participation in the committee, which has had difficulty retaining members. Currently, the board has one unfilled position and two seats that had to be filled by appointments after its voted members resigned.

“This March, there’s going to be four open seats,” said Somero, who admitted that filling seats was an issue. 

Somero’s seat will be up for election this year, and he said he has yet to decide whether or not he himself will run again.

“It depends on who else might run,” he said. “If they’re conservative, I might. If they’re just a bunch of spending liberals, I’m wasting my time.”

“We just don’t have the people that are interested. It’s a great idea in concept, but people need to participate and participate in a constructive manner,” said Veeser.

Which is a second point of contention for Hicks, who said that he has not seen the Budget Committee and the Select Board working as a cohesive whole. 

“I think that some people come in with a total philosophy of ‘cut,’” said Hicks. “The reality is, you can’t buy anything now for the same price you did ten years ago. Everything costs more, and we need to be able to operate efficiently. I want someone to keep my taxes down as much as the next person – I’m retired and don’t want a big tax bill – but I also want to live in a town where the equipment isn’t breaking down, and want the Fire Department and Highway Department to have the equipment they need to do their jobs.”

Veeser said that relations between the two committees aren’t without their friction.

“It’s almost combative at times, which is unfortunate,” he said. “The people of the town deserve the people of both committees to work together.”

Veeser said that he was ultimately of the same view as Hicks – if you want to maintain services, you have to pay for them.

Somero, however, said that efforts had been made by the Budget Committee to understand the Select Board’s position, including sitting in on board meetings. The committee is still young, said Somero, and there’s going to be a learning and growing process.

“I’m open to suggestions,” he said. 

And while the town needs services, there are places where the budget is inflated, said Somero.

“I think the Selectmen have done a fairly good job, but I think they play favorites, and they’ll give away the store if they favor you,” said Somero.

For example, he said, he’d like to see the Police Department budget slimmed down.

“We don’t have to spend such an extraordinary amount off money for policing in this quiet bedroom town.”

The Select Board accepted Hicks’ petition article for inclusion onto the warrant. A Budget Committee can only be established or abolished by town vote.

The Budget Committee will be presenting their budget for final community feedback during the Budget Hearing tonight (Tuesday) at 7 p.m. in the town offices.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.