I'm writing this before the Norwich City Manager unveiled his proposed Fiscal Year 2016-2017 budget this past Monday night. I needn't have been in the room (then) or read/listened to any of the comments (since) from Norwich neighbors to know two separate but contradictory truths: as proposed, the budget is too high and we cannot afford the tax increases needed to pay for it and the budget is too low and we cannot afford the economies in services and programs it will require to achieve its numbers.
Somewhere, Goldilocks is wandering Main Street banging on her empty porridge bowl with a spoon looking for someone named Just Right. She, and we may be searching for some time to come. And speaking of Ms. Locks, it's never eaten as hot as it's served; the City Manager's proposed budget is just that, proposed.
It is, and keep telling yourself this, a starting place for the discussions and the deliberations that will now follow between and among those we elected to the City Council and the professionals who manage our city's many departments.
There's a long way to go before a final budget is approved in early June (no later than the second Monday, which, this year is June 13). You can follow the path of the entire process by starting here on the city's website and then tear and compare previous and proposed budgets.
But there's a lot more we can, and must, do now in the most important part of the process, be both present and informed. And by present I mean physically as in attending department hearings on every major component of the proposed budget with the leaders of each department which start tonight, at 6:30 in City Council chambers with all the volunteer fire departments as well as the Norwich Fire Department (CCD) and Emergency Management.
There's another set of department hearings next Monday the 11th, followed by the City Council's first public hearing a week from tonight with a third and final department hearing to include the Norwich Public Schools slated for next Thursday, the 14th.
Each of us (of course) is entitled to our own opinion on the proposed budget and to offer ideas for savings, but we're not entitled to our own facts. Get a copy of the budget proposal and study it; attend the department hearings and listen to the proposals and to questions our City Council members ask and the answers they receive.
And by all means participate in the Council's public hearing (there's another on May 9th as well), and I'd hope City Hall is packed with people ready to speak and to listen about our proposed budget. We have two ears and one mouth, so I'm thinking that ratio is probably a good guideline for how we all arrive at our next budget.