Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fools Again?

Ken O’Brien

For going on four years now I’ve been preaching that the wailing and gnashing of teeth that comes every December when the tax rate is set is pointless.

Once the town budget is approved by the town council the tax rate is effectively set.

It has been shown repeatedly that Southbridge has the highest tax rate of all local communities.

What we hear in response is that the tax rate has to be viewed in relation to the assessed valuation of the properties in the community. We can’t judge simply on the basis of the tax rate because it doesn’t tell the whole story.

In reality that’s what the less politically correct of us call bullshit.

The stratospheric tax rate helps to drive down the value of local properties relative to surrounding communities.

In order to sustain an ongoing level of expenditures (not to mention increases) requires an even higher tax rate and so on in a continuing downward spiral.

That fact is compounded by the miserable incompetence repeatedly demonstrated by those charged with the governance and management of the town.

For the last week I have devoted a great deal of attention to the school department. Regardless of their excuses, and an unprecedented expenditure of tears, performance continues to be miserable.

That certainly hasn’t helped to boost property values.

Yet the Superintendent has the audacity to request a budget increase $1.1 million greater than that recommended by the interim Town Manager.

The budget proposed by Mr. Reed calls for a 4.52% increase in the tax rate, a 15% increase in sewer rates and a 3% increase in water rates.

Everybody who thinks that will raise property values so that next year we’ll have a lesser increase in tax rates, please raise your hand.

The fact of the matter is that we need two things:
·         Reduced spending;
·         Better performance

Does a town the size of Southbridge need the police force it has? The fire department? The town hall staff? The DPW? The administrative overhead and salaries in all these departments?

Performance has been laughable.

A month ago the Department of Planning and Economic Development sponsored a presentation by Concord Square Development. We were told their plan for downtown revitalization would be on the town website the next day. I still can’t find it.

The town website itself is atrocious.

Aside from numerous instances of out-of-date information, it is about as maneuverable as Back Bay after a Red Sox/Yankees game.

One group is running around trying to get signatures to go back to a past form of town government.

That is more BS. Things won’t change. The same people will get elected and the same people who vote for them will show up at town meetings.

Councilor Vandal got the problem drilled home to him by departed Town Mangler Chris Clark last December:

This time around Councilor Vandal demonstrated that he had learned his lesson:

The question is, “Have the rest of us?”

Unlike the cadre of twits who want to follow Mr. Marino back to the 19th century, I demand that we use the resources of the 21st.

Put the budget presentation document and the detailed proposed town budget on the town website.

Record and broadcast sub-committee meetings. Clark canned Mr. Zotos, but Paul has been doing this a lot on his own time. Why can’t those being paid for the job do it?

We constantly hear from councilors that the real work is done in subcommittee and if citizens care they’ll attend. (Cranky Cathy is famous for this).

If other citizens cared that much, they’d run for council.

You wanted the damn job and then you bitch because you’re being expected to do it. Have you ever considered the possibility that you’re not infallible? (Damn, if you weren’t a woman you could be Pope.)

You’re elected to represent us. Unfortunately, you don’t. You represent the people whose subcommittee interests you oversee. Take a look at the subcommittees, who chairs them, who their citizen members are and who they are friends with and/or related to.

All that these subcommittees are is a mini-version of what we would see in town meetings – the self-interested voting for their self-interests. It’s Washington lobbyists at the local level on steroids.

However, God forbid that people show up when the total budget comes before the council.

We would hear Cranky Cathy denigrate citizens for not showing up at those subcommittee meetings where they would be ignored and treated like “pigs and barnyard animals” anyway.

God forbid that people show up when the total budget comes before the council.

Cranky Cathy would start complaining that the meeting was running too long and she wasn’t getting paid for this.

Well, April Fool’s.

The first subcommittee hearing on the proposed FY 2015 budget is tonight. How appropriate?

Who is going to question or reduce any these expenditures?

Subcommittee members?

Other councilors?

The petition circulators?

The people who voted for these clowns?

The beneficiaries of the inflated budget items (and the taxes that pay for them)?

If you said yes to any of the above, you’re an April Fool.

Or wait until May to find out.

Or, maybe December. 

Or until the landfill money runs out.


  1. Check out the telegram.com tonight. For a superintendent that doesn't talk to the press (according to him), it sure seems lime he does. Someone sounds like they are guilty and panicking. Maybe the fact that the unemployment office is not awarding you decisions in you favor has you a little rattled eh?

  2. He had another hearing yesterday at the unemployment office, he didn't show up. He sent his secretary and a want-to-be administrator who BRI God little to the table except good looks.
    The hearing was continued until early may; at which time Buzz is expected to appear, along with former principal Allen and retired acting principal Greg Leach. Allen and Leach would be wise to not attend, as their remarks will most,assuredly be used in this wrongfully-terninsted guidance counselor. Although I understand that Leach and Buzz hang out at the casino and play golf together on a regular basis.


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