Officials minding the budget gap

So, for another year, town meetings and ballot voting days are over and our local officials are left to deal with the decisions of the voters.

In Milford, that means figuring out what to cut from town and school spending after voters shot down both budgets. In Amherst, two school budgets got nixed, although the town budget made it through.

So now, in Milford, the town administrator and finance director are working to close a $121,000 gap between the proposed operating budget and the default budget. Nickle and dime stuff, you say. Well, sure, unless you’re on the receiving end of whatever gets cut.

But it is nickle and dime. It takes more than $1 million in spending to raise Milford’s tax rate by $1, so what are we talking about here?

Town Administrator Mark Bender said, “I’m confident I’ll be able to bridge the gap. A lot of small things will add up to the full amount.”

Of course they will, but is this time well-spent for such a relatively small amount of money?

In Amherst, going to default budgets for schools could mean cuts in supplies, textbooks, science equipment and non-union salaries. Who needs supplies? In the past, teachers have used their own money to buy things needed for their classes, so they set a precedent. Hey, voters can live with that. What’s wrong with old science equipment? If it was good enough for Louis Pasteur …

We wish we knew the message voters were trying to send. Sure, one could posit that they were saying any spending is too much, so any cuts to any spending are good. But we can’t believe the majority of the folks who went to the polls think that way. But then, just because we can’t believe it doesn’t make it not so.

Are we dealing here with concerns of people on fixed incomes, because money from Social Security isn’t increasing by leaps and bounds? Perhaps they’re having trouble paying their property taxes. Well, you know where we stand on that: The property tax is inherently unfair, especially to people on fixed incomes, because it doesn’t consider their incomes.

For years, this newspaper has editorialized in favor of an income tax to replace the property tax because, when it comes to people on fixed incomes, the income tax does take into consideration how much money they earn, not how much land or house they bought 50 years ago.

But New Hampshire legislators prefer to pay lip service to those on fixed incomes so they can continue to support the relatively few people who make a lot of money and don’t want that to factor into how much they pay to support their state and town.

Well, then, welcome to the world of default budgets and cuts to school supplies.