Lial: Cutting crucial positions will only harm Warren

Warren Town Council member Scott Lial considers a question during the May 19, 2014 Financial Town Meeting. Warren Town Council member Scott Lial considers a question during the May 19, 2014 Financial Town Meeting.

Warren Town Council member Scott Lial considers a question during the May 19, 2014 Financial Town Meeting.

Warren Town Council member Scott Lial considers a question during the May 19, 2014 Financial Town Meeting.

Note: Warren Town Council member Scott Lial sent the  following letter to the Warren Times Friday evening in response to an inquiry into events that transpired at the Financial Town Meeting this past Monday, May 19

Your inquiry regarding the reinstatement of the funding for positions cut at the Financial Town Meeting is a critical one, and I feel it merits a response on numerous levels.  First, I must say that the safety mechanism provided by the Financial Town Meeting is an important one, as it provides the voters a final opportunity to have their voice heard. While some might argue that it allows for special interest attacks on specific areas of the budget, that does not eliminate the need or importance of such a mechanism. The budget has gone through many reviews and iterations by that point in time and, while experience has shown me that little to no attendance throughout the process is the norm, we must still value and uphold the importance of this final democratic forum.

That being said, the Town Council itself has had every opportunity to express its voice and concerns over every area of the budget. We have evaluated each expense line by line, arguing the merits of all proposed needs and services.  As previously stated, all disagreements and discourse have occurred in a public setting for all to see. When all budget meetings are complete, the entire Council presents its budget to the people. This was done in a unilateral fashion with no opposition from any of its members. The Financial Town Meeting is not the venue for the Councilmembers to change their mind. It is not the venue to make political statements via a vote change. It is a venue for the townspeople to express areas of concern and interest as they relate to their tax levy.

And while I believe the discourse in the room that evening purported to involve the issue of exceedingly high taxes, that was clearly not the primary concern. The tax rate was not lowered. If that was the true intent then ALL individuals holding positions not bound by contractual obligations would have been evaluated. All of those positions would have endured equitable scrutiny and ultimately equal reductions. Instead the focus was narrow and personal and undermined the very positions that are paramount to this Town’s progress. We cannot endeavor to develop our residential and commercial areas of opportunity without full-time employees in the roles of Building Official, Town Planner, Tax Assessor and Town Clerk. We have individual projects currently in motion that on their own will require the full attention of these departments, never mind the daily and weekly interactions required to support the needs of our current property owners.
I empathize with the voters of this town and their concerns regarding an increased tax rate. I have spent close to four years on the Council favoring the reduction and level funding of expenses, unilaterally across all departments, often times without support. We must always keep the taxpayers in mind as we act to finance the activities required to run this community. As the planning for the coming fiscal year began, we all recognized the need for a nominal increase in operational spending to counter all the reductions we have passed in recent years…reductions that were squarely aimed at combatting the ever-increasing cost of educating our children.  Our proposed increase was under 3%, which barely covers the cost increases we are all experiencing across the board in this economy. The looming school budget was sure to carry us over the 4% State cap and it didn’t disappoint, taking our nominal 3% increase up close to 11%. We were again forced to make painful cuts to our operational budget to support the inflated cost of our education line-item. These cuts were again passed by unanimous vote of the Council and left us with the 7% increase that was forwarded to the Financial Town Meeting.
We will not be able to prosper or develop economically by allowing a singular expense to virtually undo our fiscal solvency year in and year out. Turning the crosshairs on ourselves and maiming departments of crucial importance will not solve the problem. We need to stay the course and maintain the key objective of economic development, while simultaneously standing and fighting for equitable rights and proper funding within our school system.
Scott Lial
Main Street

 

3 Comments

  1. John Tats said:

    Mr. Lial, while I can appreciate your need to explain in depth your reasoning behind what happened at the financial Town meeting as the wrong thing to do. The rest of Warren is thinking much differently than you and the other Council members. You and the other Council members are elected to take care of business, you seem displeased that not many folk showed for the previous meetings, that is because we entrust you and others to do the right thing. I have sat back and listened to the same rhetoric for over 8 years and the song is the same. I have seen little or no change in the financial makeup of Warren other than level funding. And even with that type of financial management things remain unfinished, not maintained and the system abused. Your statement that the cuts were only directed at certain people is incorrect, had initial motions been allowed to move forward, many many cuts would have been made, forcing the hands of the Council & Manager to do the right thing. Your assistant Solicitor stated that the motion for a general cut of $250,000 across the board could not happen, this is being checked into for clarity. Other attorneys are stating this should have been allowed to move forward. You and the other Councilors & the Manager came up with every excuse not to continue to make cuts.

    There are many other communities that have a greater area to manage and less resources with smaller budgets and they still manage not to continually put the burden on the Taxpayer. While we both agree that the School agreement is the major issue, no one has come up with a solution to get Warren out of the trouble its in. This Council & Manager have done nothing other than get us by another fiscal year and our surroundings have remained the same. The fact that Warren was the “Only” community in the Sate to request an increase over the State cap of 4% speaks volumes as to whats wrong here. While all the rest of us think its great that the Council did what they could to get through this mess, in fact the real issue is are you all intending to increase the taxes again next year? I can assure you that none of you will have a second chance at this next fiscal year. You five need to think out of the box if your planning on getting Warren in line, putting all our eggs in the basket of the judge favoring Warren in the court case is not a fix. In fact it does nothing but prolong the inevitable, bankruptcy. And if that is what needs to happen to remove us from this horrible agreement we have with the schools so-be-it.
    Right now some of you are not electable at this point, unless this Council is willing to take drastic measures and not keep putting the burden on the taxpayer, some of you folks are not going to survive the next election. You can’t just have one Council person willing to make cuts. This Town shouldn’t continue to operate on the pretense of big government, it’s a tiny Town plain and simple. Just be mindful, you can’t come to us next year for another increase like this, you’ll put Warren out of business regardless of what happens with the Schools.

  2. CM said:

    There is a bottom line here: The taxpayers can’t afford to pay such large local taxes. The houses that I’m familiar with have yearly tax burdens in the range of $4,500 to $5,000. $5,000 is $416 a month, soon to become $450. It’s too much. It’s like paying rent to the town.

    If a resident loses his or her job or retires on Social Security — and doesn’t have an apartment to let — the resident may have to give up the house just to survive (if you factor in the costs of maintaining a house). The tax rate goes up every year; and if there’s a revaluation, it can go up even more. Enough is enough.

  3. Ron Silva said:

    And the beat goes on. The smallest town in the smallest county in the smallest State has some of the biggest problems. Taxes forced us out and we are not alone. We are saving thousands of dollars a year are tax savings alone. We have better services, roads etc. to boot. Good luck to the Warreners in the future.

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