Support for essential youth services (GRCC)
To the Editor:
During a recent citizen discussion with numerous Save Rumford activists in attendance, it was clear that there is very strong support for the GRCC goals to provide a recreation venue for our youth. The Town of Rumford officials have not offered any hope for funding relief for an organization, which offers so much for our youth.
This is not the time for the Rumford town officials to use scare tactics in an effort to get approval for their third version of their wasteful spending program. The most recent Rumford bid for budget acceptance omits any help for GRCC or Black Mountain. Many voters realize that Black Mountain, a recreation business, needs short-term assistance; and more fully realize that the GRCC funding concerns are quite different.
It seems that the town officials have decided to protect the large budget requests for fire safety, law enforcement and public works at the expense of providing short-term support for the GRCC recreation programs. That is unacceptable. Managing a municipality should not be seen as a simple task. I will assume that each of our town officials will become more receptive to ideas from the public.
Our town is currently in a wait and see mode as the legal process plays out to schedule a special town meeting to vote for or against a $6.2 million spending cap. If the legal process stalls, the voters shall be asked to reject or approve the latest bloated budget option.
Rumford voters should understand that money is currently readily available to support a GRCC request for a one-year funding allocation up to $130,000. I believe the funding for GRCC is a critical circumstance requiring new ideas and agreements outside the box. During next year’s budget process, we should expect an assessment amount for recreation as a budget article rather than as an initiated article. Next year’s GRCC business plan should place a reduced demand on taxpayer financing. This year is different. GRCC needs a transition funding process.
Financial facts: Rumford has the money, in the bank, to support GRCC this year.
A. The Rumford annual report (page 15) has identified a “strong financial position …with an undesignated fund balance of $3,632,755 and a total of funds as of June 30, 2012 of $8,480,792.” The undesignated fund has increased effective June 2013 to $3,719,383. The currently available funds are comprised of reserve funds = $3,719,383; carryover funds = $1,580,000 and other capital funds. Each of these funds is comprised of previously approved taxpayer money. The money is already in the bank!
B. Although the town manager has threatened "dangerous roads" if the Public Works funding is not approved, the truth is that the Public Works Department had over $1,200,000 available in carryover funds, in the bank, but unspent. If these funds were correctly applied to the spending plan for 2013-2014, the need for new taxpayer funding would be at least $400,000 less. The Public Works Department has a management problem, not a funding problem.
C. The town receives approximately $675,000 annually from excise taxes (Annual Report Page 47). The town has typically allocated only $400,000 for permanent roads. That leaves another $275,000 available for unidentified spending by the town officials. That is a lack of transparency.
D. The town currently plans to use $1,277,641 from the Undesignated, Reserve Fund to supplement their proposed property tax revenue to fund their bloated budgets. That action will reduce the reserve funds from $3,719,383 to $2,441,742. Frankly, it seems irresponsible to significantly spend down our reserve funds in light of the possibility of a severe business downturn at our lifeblood business, Rumford Paper Mill.
A. The town officials should create a fourth spending plan, which represents budget transparency. For each municipal department, a spending and financing budget plan should be created indicating at least the following: number of permanent employees, number of temporary employees, salary, overtime, capital funding, insurance, retirement funding, payroll taxes, grants, and carryover funds. This approach will define the total expenses for each department. Currently, many of these spending categories are not transparently assigned to each department. Numerous other towns use this financial communication process.
B. The above fourth spending plan proposal should be implemented in either of the following two scenarios:
a. If the legal process demands a special town meeting to vote on a $6.2 million spending cap, please vote for the spending cap. That will provide funding for all essential services.
b. If the legal process is dismissed, please vote "no" for all of the eight remaining articles on their third budget proposal and expect the town officials to get serious with a revised operational plan and funding for essential services.
C. Clearly, undesignated funds, already in the bank, are available for critical circumstances. Spending down the fund to pay for the overspending in the large departments should be denied, however, the town officials should place a new article, for voter approval or rejection, on the next (fourth) budget warrant to support our local youth as follows:
Article xx: “Shall the Town allocate $130,000 from the currently available $3,719,383 Undesignated Fund Balance to provide financial support to the GRCC (Greater Rumford Community Center) to ensure continuity of recreational services for our Rumford youth?”
Summary and Explanation: A critical circumstance was created when the voters rejected the initiated articles. That is the past. Now the voters have an opportunity to help fund an essential youth service. The GRCC provides an essential service for our local youth. GRCC existence, as a place to learn essential values, is critical to our collective desire to encourage a healthy lifestyle for our residents.