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An invitation from Selectboard member: Ideas wanted  

It isn’t fair to sit on the sidelines and say, “Why don’t you cut, why are my taxes so high?” unless you can say what you are willing to do without. Here’s your chance. Come on Tuesday, March 24, and tell us. 

Last week, the Great Barrington Selectboard and the Finance Committee finished reviewing the draft town budget. Next week, on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Town Hall (Put it in your calendar now!), there will be a public hearing to get input, suggestions and feedback about the budget before it is formally proposed to the voters at Town Meeting in May. This budget is our best attempt to provide the services we think voters want at a price we are willing to pay.

Here’s your chance. Now is the time.

If you think taxes are too high, (and who doesn’t?) let us know how to reduce them.

Of course, it’s easy to reduce the budget and to reduce taxes. The problem is that we don’t want to reduce services. I could cut my household food budget in half, but then half of the people in my home wouldn’t get to eat. The School District could save a million dollars a year by putting 45 students in each classroom, but students don’t learn that way (also, union contracts limit class size). GB could save a lot of money if the police and fire departments stopped investing in training and equipment, but no one wants that. Or, we could stop paving the roads (I think most of us agree we have cut back on that a little too much already). The point is, the easy cuts were made long ago.

It isn’t fair to sit on the sidelines and say, “Why don’t you cut, why are my taxes so high?” unless you can say what you are willing to do without. Here’s your chance. Come on Tuesday, March 24, and tell us.

The proposed budget is available on the town’s website. Review it line-by-line, as we did, and let us know what is included that shouldn’t be. Please be specific but please keep in mind that, although you may find some possible savings we overlooked, it is more likely that we have already considered the cut you recommend but decided against it for what we feel is a legitimate reason. That doesn’t mean we are right, so please, come and tell us.

When you come, please also keep in mind that you don’t live here alone. Something you might be willing to live without is very likely something other taxpayers think is vital. Something you think is an unnecessary or foolish expense may well be something that is required by state law.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Taxes are the price we pay for living in a civilized society.” On that note, feel free to come and tell us you like the current budget or that there is some service you are willing to pay more taxes to have.

Finally, come to Town Meeting on May 4. New England is the home of hyper-democracy. The Town Manager doesn’t set the budget. The Selectboard doesn’t set the budget. We don’t have that power. Every year the budget is approved by the voters who show up to vote.

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