Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Pinch Every Penny

Ken O’Brien

At Monday night’s town council meeting local resident Kevin Buxton expressed the frustration of many citizens regarding the never-ending upward spiral in Southbridge taxes.

The response from Councilor Moriarty during councilors’ forum was to urge attendance at subcommittee meetings where the real work is done on the budget. Once the budget is determined, the setting of the tax rate is a mere mathematical exercise.

In this context, I thought that the report of the April 1 meeting of the General Government subcommittee was especially enlightening.

The chart below is taken from the agenda for that meeting. It has added to it the amount approved and forwarded to the full council with a favorable recommendation. As can be seen, the items approved (with a couple of blanks) amounted to almost $12 million, or over 20% of the proposed FY 2015 budget.

At the outset it is perhaps worth noting that the posting for the meeting on the town website says that the meeting would start at 7 PM. The chairman’s minutes, however, say that the meeting started at 6 PM. Given that the meeting ended at 6:50 PM according to the minutes, woe to anyone who relied upon the posted agenda to attend the meeting.

Having pointed that out, here is the presentation of the subcommittee meeting minutes by the subcommittee chairman during Monday night’s council meeting.

So, in less than an hour, the subcommittee dispensed with 19 agenda items and $12 million without even one motion to reduce any item. Almost half of the items were approved with no discussion.

At the previous meeting of the council the Interim Town Manager presented his budget proposal. Councilor Conrad Vandal remarked that the cost of paying taxes and water and sewer rates were taking all the fun out of living here.

The following video of an already emaciated Southbridge resident who still has joy in his heart until he sees what little he has left after taxes illustrates Councilor Vandal’s point.


  1. Nikolla should spend less time telling taxpayers how to live and more time getting town spending under control.

  2. If the meeting minutes are accurate, wasn't there an Open Meeting Law violation?

  3. How are we supposed to show up at subcommittee meetings and question budget items intelligently without access to the line item material. A couple of years ago Dennis Martinek was able to post them on line on his own as a private citizen. Why can't the town, with all its resources, make this information available on the town website prior to the subcommittee meetings?


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