Only three and a half weeks until Town Meeting! The March 7 meeting will give local residents a chance to discuss local spending decisions in great depth during the meeting itself and allow people to cast ballots on large ticket items via Australian ballot voting throughout the day.
This week’s issue of The Valley Reporter includes budget reports from three Mad River Valley towns, Warren, Fayston and Duxbury. A story about Waitsfield’s budget ran last week and one about Moretown’s will run next week.
Watching select boards work their way through the budgeting process from December until town reports have to go to the press at the end of January is illuminating. Your elected officials spend a lot of time and effort working on town budgets. They don’t take actions or make decisions frivolously. Actually, reading your town’s budget report is highly advisable.
This is where the nuts and bolts of your municipal tax rate comes from. Take the time to review how funds were spent last year and how funds spent compare to funds budgeted.
Compare health care costs and cost of living increases for town employees against your own health care costs and salaries. Check out how much money your town is spending on electricity, propane and fuel oil.
Consider the number of yards of sand and gravel and salt that your road department uses. Take a look at what your town is budgeting for capital projects. Read the line items of monies put away each year for longer term projects. Capital budget items are an important way that towns plan and prepare for larger expenses.
(Both Moretown and Waitsfield already have the funds they need to purchase their share of the Mad River Park rec fields in reserve funds, by the way.)
Reviewing and being aware of your town’s spending decisions and priorities is one important way to participate in the process of taxing yourself. If you can’t attend Town Meeting and have strong feelings about your town’s budgeting strategy, let a select board member know. And if you can attend Town Meeting, do so, ask questions, suggest budget changes and pay attention.
Participation counts, no matter what level of government.