• Not really unexpected
    May 18,2013
     

    Not really unexpected

    Once again I take the time to point out the opaqueness of Barre City fiscal operations. In the May 17 article “Spoken-for cash tanks capital plan,” we see that popular “streets and sidewalk fund” that was once again approved by Barre taxpayers has been diverted for “unanticipated expenses.”

    What are “unanticipated expenses” in Barre?

    In March, the only thing approved by voters big-ticket-wise was the street and sidewalk fund. It’s an acknowledged popular Australian ballot item, and the results are very observable, with many sidewalks and side streets seeing marked improvement. I get it, we all like to see results. But, unbeknownst to voters, it’s become a handy cash cow for the city to pay for budget items that weren’t included in the budget.

    In this article, it has come to light that some of the aforementioned “unanticipated expenses” contained in the fine print of the ballot item have all but drained the $810,000 approved for street repair by voters. One expense: the contaminated firefighter turnout gear. So scratch $225,000 along with $40,000 to decontaminate the station. It’s a truly “unanticipated expense.”

    Expense 2: the culvert next to Studio Place Arts. It has been leaking for decades and almost annually destroying anything in the basement of SPA after every rainstorm. The city knew it was bad and managed to make an agreement with the builders of City Place that they would pick up some of the tab. Yet the city budgeted absolutely nothing. So, we have an “unanticipated expense” of $125,000.

    Expense 3: a $208,000 payment on the $1.5 million street reconstruction bond we all approved five years ago. How the heck is that “unanticipated”? I thought bond items were supposed to be budgeted. It’s a “shifted expense.” Add to that the payment on the North Main Street construction. Another “unanticipated” expense to the tune of $62,000? Also, other streets that were supposed to be covered by last year’s street and sidewalk improvement fund still need to be repaired to the tune of $83,000.

    Are we all understanding the meaning of “shifted expenses” now? It means you vote twice for your general fund. Once for the budget and again for “unanticipated expenses” masked as a voter-approved line item.

    Christopher Maloney

    Barre

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