My name is Dave Swain, I’ve been one your selectmen for the past three years and I am running for re-election. Prior to being a selectman I served two years as an assessor, which allowed me to assist numerous elderly people to take advantage of tax breaks available to them and get people to take advantage of the Senior Tax Work-off program. In addition, I served six years as a member of the Finance Committee. As a result of these experiences, I have a very good working knowledge of municipal finance. I have had the honor of working on the 250th Committee and I am a very active member of the Boy Scouts.
Today, there are numerous issues confronting the town, presently and in the foreseeable future. The largest issue is the lack of revenue to provide the level of services expected by the residents of our community. While state aid continues to decline relative to inflation, our cost to operate the town continues to escalate. The largest increases are in the areas of health insurance and energy costs. Although we have little to no control over these costs, the Board of Selectmen has worked together with various departments in town to reduce these costs.
Currently, the Board of Selectmen is looking for changes in deductibles for employee health insurance as well as reducing the energy costs to the town buildings, both old and new. I have met with Evergreen Solar to explore the possibility of installing solar panels on the buildings in the municipal complex. There is currently a program in place for businesses and governmental agencies who receive their power from a municipal electric company. While there would be some costs incurred by the town, there would also be long-term savings for the town.
As a member of the Board this past term, I have served on many committees for the town. Recently, I was the chairman of the Stormwater Bylaw Committee, who created and presented a new bylaw to the town as required by federal law.
Having raised my children here in Shirley, I have pledged and will still pledge to work to reduce the number of choice-out students and increase the number of choice-in students. Currently, I am a representative to the Ayer, Lunenburg and Shirley Regionalization Planning Committee. This committee has been meeting for over 18 months to provide a solution to the town’s high school needs. This committee feels that if regionalization were to take place, there would be some economies of scales reached. In addition, we would be able to reduce the cost of our choice-out students by almost $500,000. Some of the cost savings would have to go to the new school district, to support the cost of educating the students; however, there would be additional money available to assist with the cost of operating the municipal side of government.
If I am re-elected, I would recommend that the Board of Selectmen develop a long-range plan to handle the fiscal issues that we are currently facing and try to tackle future issues. Currently, we are only dealing with the issues as they confront us. These plans would involve us setting goals for future planning and develop ways to achieve them. It would require the Board of Selectmen to meet with and work with other town boards to reach goals. One of the goals would be to identify ways we can develop more commercial and industrial businesses to come to Shirley. The town currently has a tax incentive program in place that would be helpful in attracting businesses to town; however we do not have people stepping forward to help out. Eighteen months ago, I volunteered to be on a committee, but nobody else from Shirley joined. We also need to develop a plan to pay for our future capital purchases.
While there are extreme pressures on the town’s budget, I agree that we need to have a director for the Council on Aging. The elderly in this town are having their needs overlooked. We can not continue down this path. A director would be able to develop outreach programs, wellness clinics and entertainment for our seniors. Once we have a director in place, we could then look to establish a Senior Center. The director could then obtain grants to further enhance programs for our seniors. It is a shame that our seniors have to travel to surrounding towns to receive the service.
There is no question that Shirley is facing some challenging times. The town of Shirley needs to increase its commercial and industrial base to add additional tax revenue with little impact to services. I feel I am able to help lead us on to the future. I look forward to your vote on Election Day.