April 20, 2006

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Manchester Publisher's Note: Why I buckle my seatbelt
By†Jody Reese

Prudence. One of these days, someone is going to cross that center line and hit me head on.

Thatís the same reason we keep fire fighters at the ready and police patrolling our streets. Itís also the reason we help at-risk kids stay in school or join after school programs at the YMCA and Manchester Boys and Girls Club. Busy kids are kids that are much less likely to get into break into our homes, get pregnant or mug us.

Helping these kids now is an investment that we hope will pay off now by reducing delinquency and pay off big in a few years by producing skilled workers who can afford to buy our homes when we want to retire to Florida.

Unfortunately for Manchester and the value of our homes, Mayor Frank Guinta wants to cut our investment and thus our return. Guinta is eliminating education programs that help kids at risk for dropping out, stay in school. Heís firing more than 50 teachers. Guintaís reducing the number of times the streets are cleaned. Heís cutting fire protection service. Heís reducing library services. Heís cutting care for ball fields. Heís eliminating English language programs at the International Center.

Guinta might argue that home owners canít afford to continue to invest so heavily in the city or that some of our tax-dollar investments are being squandered.

On the first point, Manchester city government has never been flush with cash. It barely has enough money now to offer us the services we demand. Under former Mayor Bob Baines, city government was under a hiring freeze. Even before Guintaís cuts, the parks department has been struggling to maintain the parks and cemeteries. Volunteers helped cut the grass. Brush grew up, making parks less useful. The same can be said for the library which doesnít even have air conditioning or a highway department that can barely get the streets clean after a snowfall now. Guinta might say we canít even afford that level of marginal service. But can we really afford to reduce this cityís quality of life and investment in its future? How will these reduce services affect our property values?

Itís possible that city government is squandering some of our investment. But thatís something Guinta canít possibly know in 90 days. It takes research. Itís clear from the kind of cuts Guinta made that he went in blind, cutting willy nilly.

Take the tax collection department. Under his budget it will lose almost 20 percent of its staff. This is a department that is admired all over the state for being more efficient than any other department of its kind in the state. Joane Porter, who runs that department, had a tax-collection software program developed in-house by city staff that reduces the time it takes to process auto registration, thus cutting the time we have to stand in line at city hall. Her department processes more registrations per man hour than other departments in the state, yet it was targeted for massive cuts. How does that help the city innovate?

Wouldnít it more prudent to first study city government and then take a surgeonís approach and cut just the wasteful part of government spending or make employees more productive with more training and better equipment. That way, city residents continue to get good service and save money in the long run. The Guinta-no-seatbelt approach will result in higher taxes and less services.


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