Tuesday May 3rd Coventry voters will be going to the polls to consider a new town budget. It comes as no surprise to Coventry residents that the proposal calls for another tax increase. Why you ask? If you make a habit of watching our elected officials at work what comes to mind is their answer to so many other questions, “because that’s the way we always do it”.
That’s not really a very good answer but it rivals the lack of a coherent thoughtful answer when last week at the Annual Town Meeting the question was asked, what happens if we approve this budget and then do not get the 3 million dollars in state aid? There was no clear answer.
Gone are the days when the Board of Education receives a thick notebook consisting of site based line item budgets. The information was detailed and gave full disclosure of information that allowed scrutiny, analysis and questions about the spending to be formulated and asked in depth. This information provided a better understanding of the needs and built support for the budget. No the notebook is gone, that was eliminated when questions became embarrassing, well actually it was the answers that were embarrassing when made public.
It’s hard to build public support for a budget when you raise taxes, lack answers and discourage the dissemination of information even to the members of the Board of Education. Blindly trusting employees or elected officials to do the right thing is unwise and risky, not because they are bad people but because they are human. More transparency in the budget process particularly with the educational spending would be an improvement and a wise course of action to build community support.
Is a tax increase in Coventry the only financially sound proposal possible for our budget? That may be hard to determine based on available information but Vernon just had their annual budget accepted without a tax increase. We all hear about the contractual obligations, state mandates, and reasons it can’t be done but somehow Mayor Jason McCoy of Vernon did it.
Did he destroy the educational system? Apparently not, since the Superintendent Dr. Mary Conway said, “I am delighted” when talking about the budget passing and she called it “fair and reasonable”. In addition both the fire and police department heads expressed positive feelings about the adoption of the budget. That doesn’t mean we can do it in Coventry but it does prove it can be done.
If we had more information maybe we could offer an answer to the headline question when it comes to our budget proposal. Why Vernon and why not Coventry? Maybe the answer is we could do it if, the voters wanted to, but we will have to wait and see how the vote goes first.
No matter your view on the budget you are encouraged to vote this Tuesday May 3rd.
Where to vote:
The Second District (north end)
Second Congregational Church Community House on Rt. 44
Please park in the church lot and walk to the community house next door.
The First District (south end)
CVFA Fire Station at 1755 Main Street.
Polls will be open from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM