Wintry Mix – Budget Committee

By S.D. Plissken | March 2, 2019

The Milton Meet the Candidates night went forward as planned. The winter storm had largely dissipated by late afternoon. High winds followed.

As for the presentations, they were … interesting.

Continued from Wintry Mix – School Board Candidates

For the Budget Committee – Two Three-Year Slots

Mr. Thomas McDougall and Mr. Humphrey Williams both made statements (see also Meet Mr. Williams). Both spoke to the need for beginning the budget process much earlier in the year and for setting definite goals. No more November surprises.

Both spoke also to the need for the Board of Selectmen (BOS) to manage actively the sizes of departmental budgets. (The BOS has had in spades the same diminishing marginal returns problem that puzzled so many School Board candidates).

The “new dog,” Mr. Williams, cited his experience of creating large budgets in his career at the shipyard, and seemed to be appalled at the incomprehensibility and duplication in Milton Town budgets and budget processes.

Mr. Williams claimed that it should be possible, for a time, to have every year a lower budget. Well, of course. He cited an example of having implemented a 10% annual reduction, which was carried forward over a number of years, until the budget was halved. Over the same period twice as much was being accomplished, i.e., production increases. In this case, the product is termed “services.”

These two candidates are running for two seats. They will both be “elected.”

Mr. McDougall is running for re-election. He thought the budgets are more complicated than they need to be. He has not proposed cuts in the past, as he felt it might impact services. He thought the budget process has a lot of repetition.

Mr. McDougall twice expressed his disappointment at not having any competition for his seat. And, with that kind of thinking, he would have had a good chance even in a contested race.

For the Budget Committee – One One-Year Slot

Two other candidates have thrown their hats into the ring as write-in candidates for the third empty seat. That would be the empty one-year Budget Committee spot on the ballot, and the candidates would be Mr. John Gagner and Mr. Dennis Woods.

Mr. Gagner posted a statement on February 2:

I believe that I have the technical fortitude and never-back-down attitude that our town desperately needs. It would be my honor to better my home. Please feel free to ask me about any of my ideas.

Mr. Woods has had a vacation home here for many years and is now retired here. You may find his posting of February 25 at the Milton NH Community News Facebook site. The portion that states his intentions regarding the budget process is excerpted here:

Like most Milton residents, I’m concerned about the increased spending that leads to higher taxes, and would like to apply my experience in Corporate management and finance, to see if we can make some changes that will provide relief without sacrifice.

Neither of these postings really commit their candidates to reducing Milton’s taxes. Mr. Gagner claims to have the technical “chops” and never-back-down attitude required. Unfortunately, he does not say whether he would be applying that attitude towards increasing or decreasing taxes. Mr. Woods is “concerned” about increased spending, but commits only to “relief without sacrifice.”

Muh Services

The departments will present ever larger budgets, as they have for many years. If they encounter any “never-back-down attitude,” they put on a pantomime regarding cuts to “muh services.” The last full-on Washington Monument show presented by the Town featured the claim that a 10% cut would require 20% staff reductions, i.e., an apparently disproprotionate “sacrifice.”

There used to be an old but effective shell game played on clueless managers or, in this case, budget committeemen. They would be presented with three choices: something catastrophic, something requiring “sacrifice”, and finally the thing that they are intended to choose. Not infallible, but very reliable.

Turkey VultureA “concerned” tax cutter is going to need intestinal fortitude as well as technical fortitude in order to choose lower taxes. The usually-proffered third choice also entails a less obvious “sacrifice”: sacrificing the interests of struggling taxpayers and, ultimately, sacrificing those taxpayers entirely.

Never forget Selectman Lucier gloating over the tax seizure of a home: “We’ll own that property soon, right?” It needed to be done … in the interests of the “community” … to preserve “muh services.”

Without a firm commitment to tax reduction, it is difficult to see why fence-sitters’ names should be even remembered, let alone “written in.” Perhaps they might wish to “amend” their statements?

SB2 Town Discussion

The panel’s discussion ended with a interesting description of the SB2 Town format and what would be needed to revert to the former Town Meeting format, which would permit also department-level budget votes, rather than the current whole-Town Budget up or down votes.


See also: Wintry Mix – School Committee, Wintry Mix- Fire Chief, Wintry Mix – Selectmen, and Meet Mr. Williams


References:

Town of Milton. (2019, February 24). Meet the Candidates Night (Budget Committee). Retrieved from youtu.be/nOmRUcqTf08?t=8564

Wikipedia. (2019, January 27). Marginal Utility. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marginal_utility

Wikipedia. (2018, June 22). Washington Monument Syndrome. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Monument_Syndrome

Author: S.D. Plissken

I thought he'd be taller.

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