Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Road Ahead

In less than a week’s time, actually next Tuesday night starting at 6:30, will be the Departmental Budget Hearings that help provide background and context to the bottom line numbers developed as the municipal budget starts to take shape.

In a world I’d like to hope will someday be the rule instead of the exception, the evening’s presentations from the various city departments would need to be held at Senator Thomas Dodd Memorial Stadium because it is the largest facility that could hopefully accommodate the throngs of interested tax-payers and residents.

Except, as we both know, that will not be the case again this year. Actually, based on previous history, we could have the presentations in a hat box, with the hat still in it and have more than enough room. (Yes I’m being cynical but only just barely.)

The hearings, open to the public, start at 6:30 in City Council Chambers, which is Room 318 in City Hall (I mention all of that because turnout for almost any meeting at any time in City Hall is often so sparse you’d think just about all of the more than 20,000 registered Norwich voters were hiding).

And you’d be correct-until tax bills started to show up in the mail.

Then (and sometimes only then) we wonder aloud “who spends our money and what do ‘they’ spend it on?” Perfectly legitimate but usually poorly-timed questions we ask long after decisions on what to do with and for municipal people and programs have been made for the upcoming fiscal year.

If you have questions or concerns about the direction the airplane (figure of speech) is heading or where it’s going to land, you should plan on being around for the take-off.  Unless you’ve got a deal to have someone else pay your tax bill, you owe it to yourself, literally as well as figuratively, to listen to the professionals who are our City government and learn as much as you can about how they see themselves working for each of us.

Reading news accounts of budget deliberations by the many (and various) municipal departments is a good start (you can catch up on the Board of Education’s perspectives and priorities on their website  and I expect Tuesday night’s session (which may go on for some hours) will also be on the local public access channel. If you’re not informed, guess who I’m holding responsible? Point made, I hope.

Discussing concerns and questions with neighbors is all well and good but probably even better would be to have those conversations with the men and women we’ve selected to serve in our public offices. To my knowledge, none of them are psychic so they won’t automatically know how we feel unless and until we tell them.

A municipal budget should be a road map of where we are going. Every informed opinion is needed just as every idea should be welcomed. As we’ve so often (and too often) discovered when you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. Time to take the wheel. No (April) foolin’. 

-bill kenny

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