The More Things Change …

By S.D. Plissken | June 26, 2019

Last week’s Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting had some few points of interest.

Chief Krauss added some new expense requests. An upgraded police phone system was added to his nautical items already on the agenda. His combined police-pursuit / boat-hauling vehicle was described as having been approved already at a prior meeting. He sought only permission to include the prior unnecessary boat-hauling vehicle in a trade-in deal for the new unnecessary police-pursuit / boat-hauling vehicle.

The Town (or Town Police) boat dock “Concern” was the damaged Town boat dock that had damaged also the Town Police boat. Or vice versa. It seems that the dock is inadequate at its current length, as more dock length is needed when the pond water level goes down. No one could have predicted that (as it goes down every year). Thus the damage to the dock, and to the boat.

There was some discussion of whether some beach funds might be redirected to cover some or all of this. We know that is unlikely, at least to any significant degree, as the Milton Town Beach Has Its Own Government. But the BOS chose to pretend that such a thing might happen, for purposes of discussion.

Note well that the other side of the ponds has no corresponding Lebanon Police navy. In fact, our larger neighbor (population 6,031 in 2010), has had no police department at all since 1991. An effort to create one was defeated at the ballot in 2009 (498 (60.8%) to 321 (39.2%)). (They rely on state and county police).

One looks in vain for the nightly light of a burning Lebanon reflected in the ponds, or for its daily riots, or its pond pirates, or for its warlords fighting over territories within it.

Thank God the bridge is down and that we have a Police navy.


Under Old Business, the Town Administrator put forward a suggested September Saturday meeting, in which a combined BOS and Budget Committee would hear the departmental budget presentations. The board was in favor of this. The administrator would next seek similar approval from the Budget Committee.

Chairman Thibeault asked Town Administrator Ernest Creveling about the current budget.

Town Administrator Creveling: We’ve already started working on [Budget] things. One of the things we’re working on is we’ve put together a spreadsheet and gave it to all the department heads. Because we’re on a Default Budget and I wanted people to go through it and analyze their budgets and take a look at exactly what it is and exactly what it is they think they absolutely need to spend, these are all absolute necessities, things that are dealing with public safety, employee safety, contracts – the police phone system may become one of those things – it is important to be able to reach the police department and leave messages if you have to, so they are are things in the process of going through that exercise.

The Town Administrator has here suggested to the department heads a sort of “party line”: express all your desired budget increases in terms of either public or personnel safety. Yes, that should do the trick.

Creveling: Hopefully, that will give us an amount that we can sort of pool together out of each line item, for a total, so that we know, if other things pop up, we’re able to pull from there, and once we get through that, I’ll make sure that you all get a copy and are you’re fully aware of what we’ve done.

Selectman Rawson: It seems a good idea.

From there, they moved on to the payroll aspect of next year’s budget. Note that they begin with the assumption that the baseline is correct and that there will be an increase above that. It is then just a question of how large that increase will be.

Chairman Thibeault: Alright. Did you also want to discuss the guidance on the employee wages for 2020, or is that just …

Creveling: Well, on … Oh, yes, we can do that as well. As far as putting budgets together, people are starting to do that now. So, as far … in the recent past, you’ve gone 2% for merit and 1.7% for Cost of Living. People just wanted to know if that is what they should move forward with in the budget development, at this point.

Now, as we have mentioned previously, very few in the real world might expect to receive any Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) increase at all. (We have heard that Social Security recipients recently got some pittance, after a gap of some years without any). But, based upon this discussion, 2% raises and additional annual COLA would seem to be de rigueur in Milton Town budget thinking.

Which might go some ways at least towards explaining why Town budgets increase always faster than – usually double – the rate of inflation.

What might “our” representatives have to say? Doubtless something innovative, something bold.

Selectman Rawson: Yeah, I’m fine with that. It’s always been that way, since my tenure of being in town.

Creveling: If you look at the New England region, its been that for the last couple of years.

The Argumentum ad Populum fallacy. Your mother has an answer for that: If all the other Towns were jumping off a bridge, would you jump off too?

Thibeault: I’m alright with that. Erin, do you want …

Vice-Chairwoman Hutchings: That’s … that’s … I mean you’re just pulling it together to look at it, so …

It seems fairly obvious that once you tell the department heads to assume 3.7% raises, they are going to budget 3.7% raises and that will be what you will “look at” later. Then will come the unanimous approval of what they will have before them.

So, you see, they just lost the budget increase battle right there. Not much of a struggle to represent the taxpayers’ interests, was it?

Creveling: Right, right. By no means is it a final budget. It would just give people guidance on what to use.

One hears around town several variations of the old saw: If one does again what one always has done before, one might reasonably expect to get again what one has always gotten before. In our case, that would be budgets and taxes that rise at twice the rate of inflation.

Chairman Thibeault is fond of talking about “out of the box” solutions. One commenter suggested that we might replace the BOS with a simple computer “app” to be always just “fine with that.”

Magic BOS-Ball
Magic BOS-Ball

I thought perhaps a Magic 8-Ball, which would at least give a negative answer one-quarter of the time. Each board member would give it a shake and read off their answer.


Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose [The more things change, the more they remain the same] – Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr


References:

Foster’s Daily Democrat. (2017, December 18). Does Lebanon Need Its Own Police Force? Retrieved from www.fosters.com/news/20171218/does-lebanon-need-its-own-police-force

Town of Milton. (2019, June 17). BOS Meeting, June 17, 2019. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/4RLXxlP8rFA?t=1386

Wikipedia. (2019, June 20). Argumentum ad Populum. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_populum

Wikipedia. (2019, March 11). Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Baptiste_Alphonse_Karr

Wikipedia. (2019, June 7). Magic 8-Ball. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_8-Ball

Author: S.D. Plissken

I thought he'd be taller.

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