And Eat Out Their Substance

By S.D. Plissken | October 17, 2018

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

Oh, excuse me, I was just rereading something. What were we talking about? Oh, yes, last Monday’s Board of Selectmen’s (BOS) Meeting.

The BOS tidied up a bit first. They retracted a prior invalid parking ordinance, authorized crossing guards for Halloween events, added (on a trial basis) an additional concluding Public Comment time, authorized acceptance of Highway Grant money (with its attendant strings), and unsealed minutes from Non-Public Meetings held on July 10, 2018, and September 24, 2018. Well, they unsealed them for Chief Krauss alone.

Therein hangs a tale apparently, but not one about which we will know much more, at least not for now. The July 10 meeting was not posted. It must have been a secret Non-Public Meeting, sort of like a double Non-Public Meeting. The September 24 meeting began as a Public meeting, but adjourned to consider a 91A:3 II (c) matter. That would be something that concerns “Matters which, if discussed in public, would likely affect adversely the reputation of any person.” The BOS surfaced again in order to adjourn again to consider a 91A:3 II (j) matter: “91-A:3 II (j). Consideration of confidential, commercial, or financial information that is exempt from public disclosure.” Finally, they went again into a third Non-Public session under 91A:3 II (c), the one that might adversely affect reputations.

Previously, Ms. Bristol supposed that all this folderol had something to do with abatements. But now, due to this unsealing of the minutes, but for Chief Krauss alone, we know it had to do with the Police. Chairman Thibeault said that

These are being unsealed to be released to the Police Chief because of Police personnel file matters and its not for public release. This is to be compliant with State statutes.

So, something happened, back in the July time-frame, that “would likely affect adversely” reputations, and something that involves also confidential, commercial, or financial information. Did something happen that we need to know about?

From there, they proceeded to the main event, the conclusion of the second round of departmental budget presentations and moving on to the third and final round of budget presentations.

When last seen, the BOS had accepted departmental budget presentations that would move us already above the Federal inflation rate of 2.1% to a CIP plan recommendation of “no more that 3%.” That 3% would itself exact 43% above inflation. But, as they say, “hold my beer.” That was just the recommendation, the actual Cloud-Cuckoo-Land amount “as it stands” was 3.8%, which would exact 81% above inflation (where 100% would be a doubling).

According to the Federal government, your household costs went up 2.1%. Few will have had their incomes rise so much. The Town budget was projected by the Planning board to rise 3.8%. The difference between 3.8% and 2.1% is 1.7%. Assuming you actually got a 2.1% raise, which most did not, it would go entirely to the Town government. They also want an additional 1.7% from whatever you had before the 2.1% raise that you did not get.

Queue up Selectman Lucier:

Selectman Lucier: One thing, I just … can I make a comment before? – you know, we just got, as we sat down here tonight, just got handed insurance adjustments, for health insurance for next year.

Administrator Thibodeau: That’s one of the presentations that we do tonight.

Lucier: Yeah, well. In that … but that ties into everything in the budgets. We’re looking at 236 in $600,000 increase over this year, just in health insurance. You know, that changes a whole bunch of things going on in Andy’s head as far as everything else that we’ve already done. You know, how much, how much can people swallow? I mean this is – we’re already looking at almost a 7.5% increase in, you know, this year’s budget, so …

Vice-chairwoman Hutchings: And the rate of inflation is 3%. We told them that a 3.8%, I think is what was discussed. Is that correct, or am I?

Well no, Vice-chairwoman Hutchings, 2.1% was the actual inflation rate, and the 3% was the Planning Board’s ruinous recommendation to continue spending way above inflation. The 3.8% figure was the completely absurd place, the Cloud-Cuckoo-Land if you will, in which we found ourselves when actual departmental budgets proposals are totaled.

Thibodeau: 3.7. 

Hutchings: 3.7%. So … I mean, that’s …

Thibodeau: We just don’t have any control over insurance. All that insurance, and retirement. That’s something … those are the costs we don’t control.

Lucier: I know we don’t have any control over it, but it’s just ….

Hutchings: Out of control.

Lucier: I mean, … I can’t … I don’t know. I’m almost, I leaning almost to say … cap … level fund it and then …. I don’t know …

Thibeault: If you level fund it, I think your insurance is still going to … that’s not really going to solve our issue.

Lucier: Oh, I understand that. But we have some serious issues here. You know, I personally have no problem with the welfare. I mean … I … I’m kind of backtracking, I don’t think we should do any new employees. In the light of things that … I don’t know.

Thibeault: So do we want to table Item 6 discussion and move on to the departments that haven’t presented yet?

The light begins to dawn on Selectman Lucier. Perhaps Vice-chairwoman Hutchings, but she had to go home sick. [Get well soon]. They lack control over insurance rates and retirement expenses. It will come to them when they have time to think about it. Hint: Personnel expenses are your largest cost. The only thing that you do control is the number of employees and their status as either part or full-time employees. That is the only variable with which you can work.

When you are in a hole, you should stop digging. So, hiring is completely out of the question. And capping was due back during the “Great Recession.” When everyone else was seeking new employment, pulling in their belts, and having trouble making ends meet, the Town government just kept right on spending. Do you remember all the foreclosure signs? The Town government barely missed a beat. They took a bit of a check step, just one year with a slower rate of increase, but that was all. Then it was right back to business as usual.

Selectman Lucier, we are way past capping. That was so 2009. And you can forget about hiring. The BOS needs to be cutting, and not little shavings or a little final sanding, but great big whacks. You have said that we are not Wakefield with its ten lakes. Right. It follows that we cannot afford what they can. We should have a tax rate like they do, if not lower. Keep cutting until you get there.

A concerned citizen, Ms. Lynette McDougall, rose to offer some advice during the new secondary Public Comment.

Lynette McDougall. As a taxpayer, I’m kind of appalled at these numbers I’m seeing, you guys. It seems like to me we’re in a management overload or something. We need to do some cutting, somewhere – training people, cross-training people, things of that sort. [Editor’s note: so that you have some coverage after cuts, presumably]. Maybe get somebody professional to show us how to do this, because this is taxpayer’s money going out. I agree with you, if you present this to the taxpayers. I’m surprised they’re aren’t people out there screaming. I’m kind of sad they aren’t. I know you guys are doing the best you can, but we’ve got to have better than this. We’re a small town, this is small, and these expenditures are not small. And I know that’s not your fault, but you should maybe think about having somebody professional, that knows how to do these things, come in and cut some things, because we need to save the people that are here. I’m sorry, that’s all.

Good for you, Ms. McDougall. Brava!

References:

Independence Hall Association. (2018). Declaration of Independence. Retrieved from www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/

Town of Milton. (2018, October 15). BOS Meeting, October 15, 2018. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=1C1AS4syCJU&feature=youtu.be&t=1071

Author: S.D. Plissken

I thought he'd be taller.

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