Crap. My least favorite time of year. And if you don’t live in NH, or wherever else they have this unique form of government, you wouldn’t even know it’s Town Meeting time or what that means.
Let me break it down for those who are unfamiliar. A town department (everything from recreation to police/fire) proposes their annual budget, the Selectmen fight about it, then vote to approve it (after making suggested cuts). It moves on to a budget committee, who fight about it for weeks and months and definitely recommend cuts. Finally, the people vote at town meeting somewhere around Marchish.
This year, there’s been a common theme across all NH towns I’m seeing on the news and in the newspapers. CUTS. Understandable, given that the economy is the worst since I've been alive at least.
From the start, J was a good boy and proposed a 5% decrease in his budget to the Selectmen. They were pleased, but the budget committee proposed to cut out summer camp staff funds. No big surprise--it was on the chopping block last year, and the town ultimately voted to keep camp (remember a time when the economy was okay).
Still, there’s always a few townspeople who are all "poo-poo" recreation and want it cut completely. This year, the group seems to have grown not because J sucks at his job (cause he so doesn't), but because of, you know, the economy.
Overall, his budget, which does not include programs, but covers staff, buildings, fields, operations, supplies and more, is only $140K total. There’s really not much he can cut, aside from shutting off electricity in a building or firing himself. And it cost each household somewhere around $5-10 to have recreation in the town. I suppose desperate times seek desperate measures because by golly, people really seem to want that savings!
Here’s one example of a comment published in the newspaper:
In these very tough economic times it is important that every town select between the services it needs and those that would be nice to have. In our case, we clearly need services like fire and police protection, road repairs, plowing and ambulance protection. However, while nice to have, do we really need to spend $137,000 to support recreation activities? I suggest that the Selectmen move money from the recreation activities and use these funds to help support those departments that our Town really needs.
So Saturday is the big decision day. We just don’t know what will come up. Town meetings that already took place have been grim. We keep saying we wouldn’t be surprised if they axed the whole recreation department, but in reality, we would be surprised. And depressed. And screwed. The nail-biting begins …
Oddly enough, I’ve been contracted to take the minutes at the Town Meeting. I asked J what I should do if they vote out his department. He said I should keep taking the notes because we’ll need all the money we can get!!!
Fingers crossed everyone!