May 11, 2006

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Manchester Publisher's Note: 2007 budget for 2007 prices
By†Jody Reese

Last weekís public budget meeting at Memorial High School saw hundreds of people come out and support good government.

One speaker near the end of the night brought it all together when he said something akin to ďyou canít get todayís services for 1950 prices.Ē

Unfortunately, with population growth, inflation and higher general costs, such as fuel, it does cost more to run city government and the school district.

Not only is that true, but we want more out of city government and schools. Dropping out of high school and going to work in one of the cityís factories is not an option any more. Dropping out of high school now leads to huge social problems, including teenage pregnancies, drug use, violent crime and poverty. We want those kids to graduate high school, go to college, get a job, buy a house, have kids and pay taxes. If thatís not the goal, what is? What are we all doing, if itís not to try and build a better life for our children?

Does this mean that the budget canít be trimmed? Of course not. I bet many of the people at Memorial opposing the budget cuts would support targeted efforts to control spending and slow the increase in taxes.

For example, those folks might support efforts to consolidate the 21 departments we currently have in city government now into 10. Former Mayor Robert Baines project that this move could save us up to $2 million a year. They might also support efforts to root out corruption, find inefficiencies and reduce overtime spending near the end of the budget cycle.

These folks want good government. What they and I donít want is Mayor Frank Guintaís shotgun approach to cutting services. Why didnít the mayor sit down and work with the school board and administration to put together a plan to see if anything can be done to trim education spending? In the end the answer may be that the schools are at rock bottom now. But Guinta has no way of knowing that. He just cut. Thatís not good government.

Investment vs. spending
Yes there is a difference.

Just spending money willy nilly accomplishes very little, while investment means targeted spending to maximize the return to our city. Rather than cutting 10 percent from this department or that department, Guinta should take a long look at city government and identify the money that is being well spent and the money that is not. That might mean that city government reduces the number of deputy department heads or puts in place a bag-and-tag program to reduce trash collection spending. It may also mean that we invest more heavily in parks, street cleaning and after-school education programs. Itís just not all about the cost, itís about the return we get for spending that money.

At the end of the day, we need a clean city, inviting to business, with good schools and crime-free streets. That will protect our huge personal investments many of us made by buying property in this city.

Does it make sense to reduce property taxes by $50 a year only to see your property value decline by $5,000?.


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