The Derry Town Council might get some help in the next year or two when it comes to developing a budget – it established a budget advisory committee at its most recent meeting.
Unfortunately – and flying in the face of a suggestion made by a resident at a previous Council meeting – the make-up of the committee does nothing to address the widespread feeling in town that the average taxpayer is not being heard.
The committee will be composed of Town officials and bankers – not tempered at all by the average citizen.
Meanwhile, the average citizens in Derry have been busy putting their money where their mouth is – contributing to the cost of a pending lawsuit against this same Town Council for turning down eight petitions that seek a revote on the May budget cuts.
In May, the 4-3 Council voted to slash deeply into the budget, resulting in cuts to personnel and overtime in fire, police and public works departments, eliminating the Human Resources director post, and shutting a fire station. Since then, residents have signed petitions that they base on the Town Charter – directing the Council to take a revote on those eight decisions, or allow the questions to go to a vote of the people.
After the Town Council, again in a 4-3 vote, refused to agree to a revote or election, citing legal counsel opinion, residents emptied their pockets to take the matter to court, where it is set to be heard Sept. 9, after this edition goes to press.
When a citizen made his budget committee request in August, he suggested a group similar to the School District’s Fiscal Advisory Committee and to budget committees in SB 2 towns. He wanted to see one councilor from each of the opposing views on the committee and several residents.
While the new committee does include one Town Councilor from each side, the community members are all fiscal specialists. We’re sure their knowledge of banking is solid, but the view of the average taxpayer – the one paying the bills and potentially losing out on services – is missing.
It’s time for change.
We’d like to see the Council welcome people from all viewpoints, and actually listen to them.
We’d like to see far more transparency and a lot less gaveling. And we’d like to see genuine interest in the viewpoints of Derry residents of differing perspectives. That’s sadly lacking in the “majority wins” Council of today, which doesn’t even pay lip service to listening to views different from its own.