A Taxing Issue

This has been a frustrating budget season. With everyone’s favorite target for budget cuts seemingly the local fire department, it’s an interesting situation when proposed cuts mean a permanent loss of four fewer firefighters in Derry, while a proposed plan to get Londonderry fire overtime expenses under control could cut firefighters on duty.

Makes for an interesting mutual aid situation, doesn’t it.

This is the kind of thing that happens with top down budget cutting.

Londonderry has already overexpended the year’s legal services budget, and even its Town Council budget hit the overage column. Derry proposes charging only town water users for hydrants – and while that would lower the tax rate, it would jack up the cost significantly for residents on town water and cut revenue currently paid by Londonderry users of Derry hydrants.

Are people really thinking things through before jumping on the budget cut bandwagon?

And in Chester, the selectmen are trying to negotiate with the budget committee to come up with a single proposal to bring to May town meeting – offering to make cuts if the budgeters agree with the new figure. If they didn’t need that money to begin with, why was it in the budget proposal?

Meanwhile, property taxes remain too high. Of course they need to be reduced. No argument here.

But is there some reason the towns are bearing the burden of the cuts when they account for just one-third of the property tax, with the vast majority funding local school districts? Why are the town unions berated for sticking with their contracts when school unions are left alone?

And what about urging legislators to take a serious look at the potential for gambling revenue, while they’re  busy cutting the state budget and downshifting the costs onto the local property tax.

We’re no better than the people who buy the biggest and showiest house around, then leave the rooms empty because they can’t afford furniture. We can tout the New Hampshire way of life, but we can’t pay for it.

Is it a lack of economic development or a lack of reason?

When services are hacked away without a discussion of what their absence will mean and the focus is solely on the bottom line, you have a mess. Welcome to New Hampshire.

Fire and police and road crews are asked to keep the town going with a reduced force. What if town management in Derry actually promoted economic development without hiring someone else? What if we prioritized by what we need, and budgeted accordingly?

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