Resident Lynn Perkins is a man with a plan – several of them, in fact. Perkins spoke to the Town Council at its May 14 meeting on ways to improve the quality of life in Derry, and specifically the quality of life for taxpayers.
Speaking in the Public Forum section of the meeting, Perkins prefaced his list by saying that in public hearings on the budget, “I didn’t hear a lot of comment that was constructive. And you took your lumps.”
Perkins compared the town to the sales field, where goals were predominant, and he said, “One thing I missed in the budget discussions were goals.” Perkins’ first suggestion, and perhaps the most controversial, was to reduce every homeowner’s taxes by $1,800. The across-the-board reduction would save every homeowner $150 per month.
Two yeas ago he was speaking with then-Governor John Lynch, and broached the subject of this being a tough time for taxes. “Lynch said, ‘No, it’s the Bush economy.’” Two years later that theory no longer holds, Perkins said.
The $1,800 is about half “of what is laid on homeowners now,” he said.
But Councilors pressed him for specifics. “If you had a magic wand, what would you cut?” Mark Osborne asked.
Perkins had a list. First, the Farmers Market. “I understand the point of the market’s helping economic development,” he said. “Councilors (Brad) Benson and (Neil) Wetherbee were clear on that. But my recommendation is to defund it, and pay it out of the $30,000 left in Economic Development.”
He likes fresh vegetables as well as the next person, Perkins said, and he didn’t recommend completely cutting Economic Development. But realistically, he said, “We’re not moving any further on downtown in the next six months.”
He agreed with resident John Burtis’ suggestion of having one maintenance department for all town functions, or having mechanics travel between the departments. “You could cut two staff members that way,” Perkins said.
He suggested not cutting the line for police cruisers, but trimming it, leasing four or five new vehicles this year and mixing them in with the current vehicles with the least amount of wear.
“We are in a changing world,” Perkins said, referring to the Boston Marathon tragedy. “I can defend my domicile, but it is nice to have the police to back me up, and not broken-down on the side of the road.” Perkins is “puzzled” by the Fire Department, noting it’s the department about which he knows the least. But he did do some homework, he said, and learned that the Conway, Ark., department has a force of 32 fire personnel for 60,000 people. The town has two colleges, one university, an airport, a railroad facility and a natural gas plant, he said.
“In these economic times,” Perkins said, “I’d rather take the gamble I’m not going to have a fire.”
While the Council did not comment on his recommendations during public forum, Benson reflected on them later in the meeting. “I’m a little perplexed,” the former Council Chairman said. “I agree with Mr. Perkins, it’s great to have a goal. But cutting individual household taxes by $1,800 would result in $19,800,000, or almost $20 million.”
Benson said he didn’t want to be at odds with anyone, but even cutting $100,000 from the budget “is yeoman’s work.” He had no idea where to cut $20 million and still maintain the services the town offers, he said.
“We would have to change the financial structure of the town, “ Chairman Michael Fairbanks said.
Benson responded, “I won’t be sitting here when we cut the $20 million. We won’t have a town.”