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Loss of prison mitigation not a disaster

December 26, 2012

Just like kids in a grocery store cash register line who throw a temper tantrum when they are told they can’t get the candy they want, Walpole town officials have a tendency to complain too much when it comes to budgeting.

Since 2000, town officials have gone to the taxpayers three different times for general property tax overrides, raised the meals tax locally once, and even one time raided the town’s free cash to fund a school department budget shortfall. It’s a disturbing pattern of a feeling of entitlement – when town officials don’t get their way on revenue, they point fingers and whine and complain. It’s never their fault that we are in a fiscal crisis. Their union contracts, capital budget spending, and maddeningly unsustainable spending never have anything to do with them.

Last month, the governor discovered that his $1 billion in tax hikes over the past six years have only served to stifle economic growth in the Commonwealth, not boost it. Forced to make $540 million in mid-fiscal year emergency budget cuts, the governor eliminated Walpole’s $750,000 prison mitigation money – a perk no other prison host community in the state receives.

And to absolutely no one’s surprise, Town Hall decided that rather than sucking it up and admitting that the prison mitigation money isn’t really deserved in the first place, they would scream about the apparent injustice of it all.

“That’s $750,000 that’s not available for capital projects, special projects, debt offset, no matter what you want to look at,” Town Administrator Michael Boynton told Selectmen at their December 11 meeting. “That’s a $750,000 hit to the town of Walpole.”

First, notice how Boynton did not say that this was a loss to the fire department or police department budgets, which both are frequently cited as the chief reasons that the town deserves the mitigation money in the first place. The very notion that prison mitigation money isn’t even being used for its intended purpose – to mitigate the impact of the prison on municipal services – and instead is being shoveled off to capital budget projects just goes to show how wildly inappropriate this state earmark is.

Considering the way that Town Hall has gone on spending sprees for the past several years, it is no wonder that Boynton is upset about the loss of $750,000. It turns out he won’t be able to spend as much of our money next year as he would have liked to. Perhaps that means the town won’t have to spend an exorbitant amount of money on the new ladder truck that Boynton has had his eyes on. Maybe it even means – God forbid – we won’t be able to spend any more money on take home cars for town employees. Or – God, no, please don’t let it be so – perhaps we won’t be able to spend any money on town employee raises, which have totaled a lot more than $750,000 per year. Oh goodness. What a pity. It’s sad to see Town Hall so cash-strapped that they can’t afford extravagance and excesses.

Unfortunately, we all know that actually Town Hall will find plenty of money to throw around on pay raises, take-home cars, and more, because they always do. Even when they complain about not enough revenue coming in, they always find a way to spend money on the things we don’t need, while starving the parts of the budget that we do need. That’s why many voters felt they had no choice but to approve a $3 million property tax override this year, because Town Hall steadfastly refused to put our students ahead of a glut of unnecessary expenses.

Boynton need not worry. The override is a permanent tax hike that affords the town plenty of money for a variety of capital budget expenditures or personnel hires and pay raises, next year and for many more years to come. He will get over the $750,000 prison mitigation cut just fine, and so will state taxpayers who have for too long been unfairly subsidizing our town’s yearly spending sprees through their state taxes.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Robert Luce permalink
    December 26, 2012 10:09 AM

    Well people we have the opportunity to vote out the spending mongers People lets take stand and send all the people walking including Boynton these people are going to Bankrupt the Town of Walpole and let dissolve the Deputy Chief of Police we have one Chief that does nothing but worry about illegals we can not afford a 2nd chief lets demand change its our town not King Richards.

    • John aaronson permalink
      December 27, 2012 7:44 AM

      I agree with you Robert – definitely areas where government should be cut. How about we start with getting rid of early retirement policies that allow workers to get full pensions in their early forties like you have. And the folks that got it could donate it back to the state so that we could lower our taxes that are used to pay for it?

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