Here is a copy of a letter to the editor I submitted to both the Concord Monitor and Suncook Sun. Anyone who knows me knows how impossible it is for me to keep my thoughts to under 250 words – well I’m not limited here and thought more explanation was needed.
Do you pay a tax bill, have kids in school, want your roads plowed or expect the police and fire departments to come when called? These things cost money, lots of it. On March 7th and 14th Chichester residents will authorize the Selectman and School Board to collect and spend almost 8 Million of your dollars, over $3000 per resident. Read that again, you and I must authorize all money to be spent, if we don't it cannot be spent. Are you concerned with your ever increasing tax bill, come and vote. Think something is being ignored and needs attention, come and vote. The budgets aside, there are other items that will be voted on that need your vote. At Town Meeting (3/14) we will be voting on a decreasing budget, plus changes to the Road Agent Position and the Budget Committee. I'm sure the roads and new ambulance will be discussed at length as well. At School Meeting (3/7), we will vote on another budget increase, more control of the SAU budget, and a new Teacher's contract, which no doubt will be a significant cost increase by itself. These items will increase your tax bill by hundreds if not a thousand dollars or more. You might be surprised to know that less than 100 people attend most of these meetings. Your vote counts, you can make a difference. Is $8 Million worth a few hours of your time in March? I hope so. For more information please visit chichestertaxpayers.com or contact me directly email@example.com Jason Weir Chichester
So how about these other items.
Changing the Road Agent position from being elected to being hired by the Selectmen, similar to the police chief and other town employees. Why you may ask should I as a voter give up my right to choose and trust the Selectmen to do the job for me. The main reasons for this change for me are as an elected position there are no required qualifications or education, no relevant work experience needed, no job interview, background check or anything else. Anyone, regardless of their background or experience can get elected as our Road Agent. This position manages a budget over $500K, has millions of dollars worth of equipment, manages employees, outside contractors and large construction projects. Another reason why I support this change is accountability, an elected Road Agent is almost unaccountable to the selectmen, they are very restricted to how much they can manage the position. The Road Agent cannot be treated as a regular employee and such the selectmen can claim little responsibility in managing the Road Agent. Should we give these responsibilities to a good politician who can get elected and have no accountability or someone truly qualified for the job? There should be a clear job description, required qualifications & education. The job should be posted, resumes collected, and interviews held. Then and only then should the best candidate be hired. Ask any current or prior selectman and I bet they would agree, this has been a continuing problem for 20 years or more and it’s time we fix it.
Institute a Municipal Budget Committee, this reverses the current roles of the budget committee and the board of selectmen. Currently the budget committee is advisory only and takes that role in developing the town budget. This change would require the budget committee craft the budget along with the selectmen and department heads to determine budget needs. In addition a municipal budget committee would have the responsibility along with the school board, principal and teachers of crafting the school district budget. This is a significant change and allows a single entity to bring both the town and school budgets under the same microscope and apply the same mindset to both budgets. This committee would include membership from both the board of selectmen and school board, for the first time requiring they work together in the best interest of the tax payers.
SAU Budget, I anticipate a warrant article that would move the SAU budget from a line item in the school’s budget so a separate warrant article to be voted on it’s own merit. Currently voters have little to no input into the generation of or control over how the SAU’s budget is spent. This change would bring it front and center and hopefully give the SAU some incentive to be accountable and control costs.
A New Teacher’s Contract will be presented and voted upon as well. Last year voters rejected the proposed contract due in part to the significant raises included. These raises were seen as far above the norm and unreasonable. Hopefully the school board and teachers union have revised their expectations and will bring a more reasonable request before the town. We should know more details of the new contract by budget hearing on 2/5
Questions or Comments? Please contact me.
Jason Weir – firstname.lastname@example.org – 736-7762