By Peter Bragdon, Candidate for New Gloucester Selectman
The first Monday in May you can mark your calendar every year for the annual town meeting. In the past, the meeting was held on a Saturday in March and would take up most of the day. Lunch would be served at the meeting or some people would rush out for a table at the local Mario’s restaurant. Eventually attendance dwindled; the meetings got shorter, lives changed. Then the meeting date changed to a Monday night in May.
The average attendance now seems to be around 100, give or take. There was a push to put it back to a Saturday. People were surveyed and Monday night was the favorite. Why out of a population of over a few thousand voters are we are getting 100?
Data shows the average age of New Gloucester is now 43. That’s commonly an age of someone in the middle of their career, actively working full time and most likely some extra. Also, it’s most likely that person has kids at home. Those kids are in school, sports are in full swing at this time of year and the weather is nice. Then don’t forget about the honey do list. By the time one gets home, gets the kids supper, sports practice, homework, there isn’t much energy or time left for the town meeting.
Or… is attendance down because it seems like everything is decided before the town meeting? Voting at the meeting doesn’t change much it seems. Only budget items can be lowered, they can’t be raised. Very seldom does that even happen. Budgets can’t be increased because the maximum amount of the budget is advertised. By doing so one understands what is being voted on at the meeting. They know that each line of the budget is only going to get so much money and the final tax rate will be no more than what was advertised. Also, I think it prevents a special interest / large group from swinging a vote and increasing a budget line by a large amount. With the current set up they could certainly lower an item or underfund something if they wanted. But I don’t see that happening.
What are the big topics this year? The steep increase in the town portion of the budget seems like a good one!!! Also on the warrant is 24-hour fire rescue staffing, increasing the Parks and Recreation director to full time and a Senior Tax Assistance Ordinance.
The meeting warrant / agenda can be found on the town website. I won’t take any sides now on the topics to be discussed. I recommend that you come and participate in the meeting. It is an interesting process and I am huge supporter of the town meeting. Even though budgets normally don’t change there can be some good debate. I have seen articles/items not pass at the meeting so you could make a difference.
I do ask one thing if you attend. Be civil!! Respect each other’s view points. Different opinions make the world what it is. Have healthy debate, be passionate but be respectful. Most importantly leave as friends!!!
Registration starts at 6:30. The meeting is at 7pm at Memorial School. Can’t make it? It will be broadcast on the local cable channel 1302 this weekend. It will also be available for streaming on the town web page.
Written by Peter Bradgon, Edited by NGX