The voters of Ashby will consider four articles at the Special Town Meeting on Saturday, July 28, at 9:30 a.m., to consider overrides to finance the town budget shortfall.
The first article addresses the $194,395 shortfall for the school budget. Our school district has one of the lowest per-student costs in the area, and the scores on the MCAS test are way above the state averages.
The administration and staff do a fine job at maintaining these high goals of excellence. I urge the voters to support this override for the sake of our children. If we vote this down, additional staff will be cut above and beyond those already cut in this 2008 budget year.
The second article addresses the need of additional staff at the Fire Department. This would qualify us to become more prepared for any emergency and provide coverage we have never had.
Plus we will generate more revenue for Ashby, as the Finance Committee has communicated to the voters on the warrant.
The third addresses increases in wages. This I find, again as communicated by the Finance Committee, is not the place for wage increases. The Municipal Financial Procedures Manual has excellent procedures to follow for better financial planning in a community such as Ashby.
Unfortunately, Ashby hasn’t been tuned in to come up with a plan for the town. I know of many resources available to us, but when I make comments and suggestions they fall upon deaf ears. I feel sorry these increases are lumped into one article. Most employees do a good job making their departments justify what needs to be done.
However, many stipends have been eliminated in the past that have very important functions for the well-being of our citizens, and other stipends have been paid to employees who haven’t done the jobs they should be doing.
The fourth article (disapproved by the FinCom) is again, as the Finance Committee communicated to the voters, “since the public safety study has not been completed (after $39,000 was appropriated over a year ago).”
Will Article 4, for $3,000,000, be another library fiscal mess? A complete picture of the total operating cost isn’t in the forecast for the library, and therefore isn’t in the municipal building project either. We are not ready to begin to fund a project of this magnitude.
I question if it is even legal for Ashby to consider an override. Why not a debt exclusion? My calculation suggests a payment for the next 20 years of $200,000 (which includes the principle and interest) per year. I urge you to remember what happened with the library recently (the library itself was not opposed by most people, just the way we were lead in the process).
Let us not make the same mistake. Whatever you do, I urge you to go to the meeting, bring another voter, and do your civic duty — vote.
G. LILLIAN WHITNEY