It was with a mixture of bemusement and very serious concern that I read Dennis Perron’s recent blog on his website entitled “Let’s Correct the Record.” In this blog, Dennis attempts a data-driven take down of yours truly in what I can only imagine in his mind was an epic “gotcha” moment. There’s only one problem: Dennis apparently confused last year’s budget information with this year’s, using last year’s budget book to argue that our current financial condition is better than I say it is. So, not only does Dennis not realize it’s not 1987 anymore, he apparently doesn’t know that it’s not 2017 anymore, either. This is deeply troubling to me and is indicative to a candidate who simply is not ready to lead Grafton through the next few difficult years.
The ordinary and usual rules of politics are that you don’t mention an opposing candidate’s name, and you certainly wouldn’t normally link to their blog and quote them. But I think that it’s really important that Grafton voters see this.
During the recent Grafton League of Women Voters candidates’ night Ed Prisby said Grafton faces a structural deficit. He stated there would be a deficit of $86,907.00 next year. However, Tab 6 in the Town Budget, not Tab 8 as Mr. Prisby cited, shows the Budget/Excess Shortfall as a surplus of $137,277.00 not the deficit of $86,907.00 reported by Mr. Prisby. In fact, the Town received $718,408.00 in new growth revenue in FY 18 versus the estimated new growth revenue of $450,000.00. This resulted in an additional $268,408.00 in new unanticipated monies, NOT the deficit of $86,907.00 determined by Mr. Prisby, who is the Chairman of the Finance Committee. This is a difference of some $356,315.00 which is equal to almost 88 cents on our tax rate.
Now… there’s a lot going on in that paragraph, none of it very good. First, I’m called out by someone using a different budget from a different year. I guess we can at least be thankful he didn’t use Millbury’s budget or something. Second, the “new growth” bit is entirely nonsensical, and it’s difficult to decipher what he means. This fall, we saw a $268,000 spike in additional money from some valuations that the assessor’s office had done a year ago, but Finance Committee confirmed with the administration that we’re unlikely to see that growth again. But the deficit that I’m talking about comes from the administration’s own numbers for FY20, and that number includes $1,000,000 in new growth, which is about $500,000 more than we usually see. So, even if we get $500,000 more in new growth next year, we’re still short $86,000 according to the administration’s own numbers. Conversely, if we don’t see it, we’re $586,000 in the hole, which was my point.
Then Dennis writes:
Mr. Prisby went on to ask us to bear in mind that we rely on a million dollars of growth next year which would provide us with approximately $500,000.00 revenue growth. Mr. Prisby is wrong again. One million dollars in new growth would not, cannot and will not generate $500,000.00 in tax revenue. Yes Ed, I have missed a lot of Finance Committee meetings, but you have missed a lot of numbers. Further, I understand numbers and needs which is why I said I would support an override if I saw the evidence that justified it and do support an increase in the number of work off jobs in the Town and an increase in the household income level to enable more seniors to participate in the work off program.
Oy vey! Why I bother taking time of out of my day to correct my opponent’s home work is beyond me, but here I am anyway. No, Dennis, that’s not what I said. I said that to get to that $86,000 deficit, we’d need $500,000 more in new growth. In fact, to get the additional new growth of $1,000,000 you need $64,000,000 in property improvements over that same period. And that’s the scary part – we have to do twice as good with economic development over the next year as we always do just so that our deficit is small.
Obviously, $64,000,000 is a lot of property improvements. Right now, we’re banking on some big development up in Route 30, and we should have more information by this July as to how likely development on the Route 30 corridor is in the immediate future, and what it might look like. But as of right now, a realtor just started marketing this property. And it’s likely that any developer coming in would seek tax increment financing (TIF) of some amount, which would negatively impact the revenue the town receives in the short term.
I won’t belabor you with the rest. Dennis goes on to talk about 200 “active permits” for development and how lucky we’ll be if and when those units come on line some magical day. Apparently, rather than do the hard work of identifying cost drivers and the provision of services, Dennis is just kind of hoping to get lucky. Which is fine, that’s one approach. But if your plan is to sit there and wait for things to work out on their own, why do we need you?
The point that I’m trying to make is a simple one: Our income increases at nearly half of what our costs do on a yearly basis and that isn’t sustainable. I’ve presented Grafton voters with a detailed platform describing ways that I think we can help ourselves moving forward and bring disparate parties together in the process.
My opponent, on the other hand, spent this weekend refusing to answer any questions at all from voters. Each time someone would ask him a question on his candidate’s Facebook page, that question would be deleted, and, in some instances, the user would be blocked entirely.
Grafton’s choices seem to become clearer every day, particularly between Dennis and me. On the one hand, you have me: answering questions and providing detailed (and accurate!) analysis. On the other hand, there is Dennis: lashing out at opponents with last year’s budget book and deleting legitimate voter questions.
I once again thank Dennis for giving me the opportunity to show Grafton voters who I am… and who I’m not.