Our next annual town meeting is Monday May 4 at 7 pm. I am hoping that a lot of residents attend because in addition to voting on the yearly government budget and motions to authorize revolving accounts and enterprise fund expenditures we are going to consider a borrowing authorization to fund the proposed fiber to the home project. There is a citizen effort to roll back property taxes and the proponents say that it is very simple. They say that taxes are too high and we need to cut budgets in half. I know this would be devastating to our community. These are questions that are critical to our future.
We pay local taxes to support local services. This taxing pays for: public works such as highway road building and maintenance, street lights, our cemetery, and road sanding and snow plowing; our public schools including educating children with special needs; public safety including police, building inspection services, an ambulance contribution to Orange, animal control, tree warden and tree removal and our fire department. We provide for human services such as veteran’s benefits, council on aging, and a health department. We fund cultural and recreational work with funding for our public library, the recreation committee, celebrations, and maintenance of the town fountain, Town Park, and Fellows Field. Sometimes it is more efficient to work in concert with other towns and we do a lot of this though the Franklin Counsel of Governments. Nothing worth much comes for free. You get what you pay for or less. As a resident of more than thirty years I have gained experience as a business owner, in government and in non for profit management. I want to tell you that we have a very impressive team which helps make Warwick special. Think really hard about it before you dismantle it.
Did you know that over half of all our spending is for schools? It is part of what we do and it is very important. We do it pretty well and the cost is rising. The half of school spending that state funding and other revenue provide is not growing. What schools spending costs us in local taxes are only slightly more than half of what the education actually costs. Our per-pupil expenditure is $15,000 to educate each child per year. I recently was elected to the Pioneer school committee and I’ve been asking difficult questions and pushing for the school committee to develop a long range or strategic plan so the organization can change and survive in the future and be more affordable. Does it make sense to operate a local school with fewer than 40 students from Warwick and 20 in Leyden? If you are interested in looking into these questions contact me.
The revenue picture for the town isn’t bright. The state budget is a billion dollars underwater. I am not holding my breath for them to save us. It is on us. One place we are seeing increased revenues is highway grant funding. The governor just announced another round of pothole grants and increased the Chapter 90 highway grant by 50%. By June after buying a new pay loader with highway grant funds we will have over $500,000 in available highway grant funding. I am working with the Selectboard and department on allocating more of our highway grant money, wherever possible, to the regular operation of our department to reduce the tax burden.
Both the Fiber to the Home (FTTH) proposal and the citizen cut budgets in half proposals are critical to our future. If not already, become informed and involved.