Election season officially begins today with the closing of the submission of nomination papers to the Clerk’s Office, so it is time for candidates for selectman to starting getting serious with voters about what they’ll do if elected.
The following is the beginning of my detailed plan forward. Thank you for taking the time to read it in full at my website.
I wanted my platform to be about more than a series of random ideas and buzzwords. We live in a time unlike any other in local government. Never before have expectations of service levels been so high, but resources to provide them so scarce. For Grafton to sustain itself in the future, we are going to need to begin planning now. That will take input and effort from all of our stakeholders – from parents, our seniors, our government employees, and our local business owners.
At the heart of the Roadmap is my proposal to form a blue ribbon commission that I am so-far calling the Grafton Sustainability Committee (GSC). The goal of the GSC will be to cull the ideas and strategies from best practices all over the country and determine how we can modernize our local services and live within our means.
With our override money running out, and budget deficits looming on the horizon, we need to explore creative solutions to our structural deficit. And that will take more than any one candidate for selectman can offer. What I can offer Grafton residents is leadership in forming the type of group that communities across Massachusetts already have formed to address their financial problems. This is not a terribly new or even novel approach – just one that I have experience working with in other communities, and one that I know can assist stakeholders and community members determine their priorities and feel comfortable with the trajectory that their community is on.
I envision the GSC as forming working groups on town income, education, municipal services, and benchmarking.
We need to explore how our income might be reasonably enhanced, through everything from PILOTS (payments in lieu of taxes), SILOTS (services in lieu of taxes) to fees and residential real estate taxes. We need to explore what more we could be doing with the Economic Development Committee and our new Economic Developement Coordinator to grow our commercial base so that we’re not so reliant on residential tax income.
We will need benchmarking studies to determine the fairness of any income increases on the payor based on what other communities are paying – and how they are paying.
We will need a working group to explore best practices in education. How can we best provide the services students and families have come to expect? How can we innovate with technology? Should we become a special education magnet district?
We will need a working group on municipal services. Should we be zero-basing our budgets to achieve efficiency? Should we plan for capital differently to realize long term cost savings?
This is all just the tip of the ice-berg. But I pledge to you all of my effort to make this a community-wide process. The GSC will not, and should not, feature the same faces who regularly preside over town committees. Ideally, the GSC would include ordinary residents with expertise in the areas on which they would work.
I hope I can get your vote. And I hope I can begin work on your behalf this May.