Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Town Meeting, Part Two

Here's to those gluttons for punishment who like to call themselves political junkies.

Swampscott's Town Meeting is worth reading about because it illustrates that good government, transparency and efficiency is on the rise. Last night's session saw Town Meeting approve, for the first time ever, a tax "Debt Exclusion," which is putting a question on the ballot to pay for certain projects on a one-year basis. It's not an override, because the town isn't paying debt - it's deciding to fix that roof, or build that new park in one year's time. It's a decision to avoid making our children pay for today's expenses. Best yet, it avoids paying for certain projects by creating capital expenditures - which is taking on a 10 year bonded loan that increases expenses, because of interest, and decreases transparency, because voters don't get to approve the debt.

So, here's to the voters of Swampscott - who will this year be given the chance to vote for a new fire truck, to replace the 1988 gem, by increasing taxes for one year only to pay for it, instead of paying for it with interest over the next ten. After the truck is paid for, taxes go back to normal and things move on. People like to know where their money is going and, thankfully, at the local level there's the ultimate potential for this kind of transparency and small d democracy. Let's hope more and more towns start to do this, because it's exactly the kind of creative thinking that could avoid some overrides to begin with.


Peter Porcupine said...

We had the same thing - and it's called a DEBT exclusion. We've used it several time to avoid overrides - a one year increase in the tax rate, which will also generate free cash if paid for sooner or more cheaply, which can then be applied to NEXT year's rate. This year, we applied $300,000 in free cash, BEFORE we voted other things to set the new rate - it keeps our tax rate under $5 over the course of time!

Ryan Adams said...

whoops - i knew i should have written these things with my town warrant at hand. thanks for the correction.

Anonymous said...

Ryan, thanks for explaining very simply how the process works for the benefit of us newbies.

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