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In Your Opinion: Residents Should Attend Budget Request Hearings

By Bill Connell, Somerset.

At a Township Council meeting a while ago, resident John McConville said something to the effect, “People don’t come out to budget meetings that decide their taxes, but they fill the chambers if you want to put a license on a cat.” Again, this year the chamber was mostly empty.

The last two weeks Council has had meetings planning the 2020 budget. I will admit they make you want to tear your eyeballs out. That said, they are also interesting. Department heads led by Township Manager Robert Vornlocker disgorge all their budget requests. After that the Township Manager and Council will weed out and vet all requests to formulate a budget.

By watching you can also get to know your council people better, if you watch the questions they ask .

Watching the hearings, you start to learn how people do their job and the tools they use. You also ask yourself things like, “How many lawn mowers do I need?” As a possible example. You can buy one under the Public Works budget, and you can buy one under the Open Space Budget and it may go unnoticed. You wonder if this is like putting one mower in your front yard and one mower in your back yard. These are subtleties you learn by watching.

On the other hand, Our Public Safety radio system is 17 years old. I know I have had at least 5 laptops in that time. On one level its impressive to hold technology that long, on another it’s scary. One of the things that exasperated Sept 11th is communication. Now we have no choice but to buy, install and vet a communication system in less than a year and hope nothing happens during the shake down. Maybe the town made the wrong decision in waiting so long, in a quest to keep taxes down.

As I listened to the requests, I asked myself a question. “It sounds better to keep taxes low, but should we raise them?” I don’t know. I do know the little green postcard mailed out last week does not tell the whole story. What next year’s little green postcard looks like is being decided right now. If you want to know more , the information is out there being replayed on television.

Your Thoughts

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