A view of the budget process

| Karen Farrell |

Dear fellow New Gloucester residents –

I was approached this year to review the Selectpersons’ meetings on the budget ahead of the public open comment phase of the process.  I followed the process through the development of the preliminary budget given to the budget committee in late February.  With a final budget now in sight, I want to share with you my thoughts on the budget process I observed.

To Brenda Fox-Howard, Town Staff, the Select Men and Women of New Gloucester, and the Budget Committee:  For the hours you spent on this process and for your hard work and dedication to our town – Thank you.

As an executive and with many years as a business owner under my belt, I deeply understand the budgeting process and its value in fiscal responsibility to one’s company.  I owned and operated my own business for 11 years here in Maine overseeing all operations and the successful acquisition by Presence Marketing – a Chicagobased company – where I am now a National Director for the past nine years overseeing an 8figure revenue.

I have used this lens in reviewing our current situation in New Gloucester.

I am providing my contact info at the end of this write-up.  Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or would like to discuss this in any way.

For easy reference, here’s a link to the budget committee’s most recent budget; budget workshop and meeting videos are available to you and posted at this link.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

New Gloucester is a town of 5,803 people.

Our preliminary budget included proposed expenditures just shy of 11 million dollars; a rate of approximately $1,895.57 per person.   

While this is well below the National Average for Large Metropolitan areas ($2,605) – This is a higher per capita rate than Oklahoma City, Las Vegas Nevada, Pittsburg, PA, Miami FL, to name a few.  But in all fairness – It is still a low rate for Maine.

Roughly half of our initial proposed budget is allocated to the School District, an estimated 6 million dollars or more.  I do not attempt to have any insight into a yearly school district budget as it is not my forte.  I did find the amazing piece linked here for those interested in knowing how public schools are funded in Maine.  As education is THE vital investment in our future, as this line item is such a large spend, as our school rankings are deeply related to our property values – a deep dive should be conducted here to make sure we are really capitalizing on these dollars for our children.

The necessities of insurance and the payments to the county account for an additional 8% of our initial proposed budget.

Of the remaining 36% or 3.9 million dollars – approximately $1.4 million was allocated to Public Works and Fire and Rescue, leaving little for the committee to work with.

In all due respect – What I did not hear discussed in the budget development meetings was a vision or a goal.   

Also, as the board’s initial budget was being developed, there was little discussion around solvency.  And maybe we are solvent?

Having also spent time reviewing the Draft New Gloucester Comprehensive Plan in advance – I see a need to review investments in the budget process which allocate funding to the items most deeply expressed by our citizens as their long-term goals: environmental stewardship, small business development, natural resources and maintaining rural lands.

I saw no budgeting to increase profitability or revenues to our town.  In business, the budget process is 100% centered around spending to make money – building jobs, sustainability. For example – How do we attract eco-tourism to New Gloucester?  How can we invest in attracting visitors and tourists to our farms and local businesses?  How can we assist our local businesses to grow?  How can we use local talent and resources to keep revenue in town – hiring locals, volunteer opportunities for low-cost projects.

What I observed instead was a “This is what we spent last year; it’s going to cost a little more this year” process.  That is not comprehensive planning.

The 2021 budget process is nearing an end, but it’s not too early to begin to plan for 2022.  I would propose an overhaul for 2022 that would include starting the process now, keeping the Comprehensive Plan in mind, leaning on the business leaders in our community and scrapping old ideals.

I offer my services free of charge to the board and committee.

Best –

Karen Farrell | National Director of Brand Management – Nutrition and Body Care
Presence Marketing | Dynamic Presence
414 Durham Rd. | New Gloucester, Maine 04260
c 603-493-1110 | kfarrell@pmidpi.com