2008 HAS ARRIVED…TIME TO WORK
As has been my practice, for the two years I have been writing this column, I avoided talking politics during the holiday season going from Thanksgiving to Christmas. The way I look at it, most people would rather not hear about politics as they eat their turkey and pumpkin pie.
I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas and that the New Year brings you great joy and success.
So, what is going on in the world of local politics?
The Board of Education is looking at setting objectives for the rest of this year, as well as, the 2008-2009 school year. We are also preparing to tackle our budget with some training for Board members, a new Audit Committee, and an“Community Conversation” before the budget is set so we get your input before we spend your money….wow what a thought!
The Town Council has its hands full as well. The year ended with Council members addressing mandating “tipper barrels”, which does not sound that exciting, but the cost savings could be of great help to next years budget.
They also dealt with the issue of social service grants and the issue of helping people in need of assistance. The debate was not over the concern for those facing hard times but who and, how we should pay for it. Tough job to say the least!
So how do the elected leaders in our town make up their minds on what is best for the overall town? More directly, how should we go about deciding where your dollars are spent in the 2008-2009 budget?
Is there a perfect process for getting to the point of approving the future budget?
The simple answer is no, there is no easy, perfect budget process.
But, there are some basic budget preparation principles that will always work to get us headed in the right direction.
First, look at where the money is being spent. Before looking for what you want to do next year, examine where the money is going and decide if the money is needed in all areas of your current budget.
On the school side of the budget ask if every program is relevant for the needs of the student and their future success? Is the subject matter outdated and is there a subject that would better prepare our kids for life.
With millions of dollars being spent each year on education, it is important to make sure we revisit the current budget and see if every item is still needed.
Second, be realistic about what the citizens can afford. After we go through and clean up the current budget and before we ask the administration and staff what they would like in the future budget, ask the big question….What can we afford?
Some believe that public funding for government has no limits. Some even believe that there is an expectation that taxes go up every year to meet the "cost" demands. Cost demands that are created by a philosophy that there are no limits to government spending, and the cycle continues. Reminds me of that old "Breck Shampoo" commercial....and on, and on, and on...you get the idea.
The fact is, there should never be an assumption that taxes rise each year.
Third, learn to listen and be willing to change your mind. Now this may sound like being willing to compromise and I guess if you want to use that word you could. My thinking here is that we elected nine Board of Education members and eleven Council members in November. Every one of us comes to the table with a certain belief system and ideology.
But, although we may have expertise in an area, the greatest wisdom usually prevails with debate and dialog. Healthy debate is what has made our nation what it is today. Sharing opposing view points and defending your opinion in the public forum is a great way to force an issue to the best decision.
But, as much as we want our voices to be heard, to truly be called a leader we need to learn the art of listening as well. I have heard some say the test of great leadership is moving your agenda forward. I believe that true leadership is moving the best agenda forward. One author said; learn to hear, before being heard. Not bad advice.
The budget process will entail more then I have written, but these are some basic guiding principles that can be used as a starting point.