AN INSIDE LOOK - Commentary and opinions on local politics and life in general in Southeastern Massachusetts! Featuring the writings of Bill Gouveia, newspaper columnist for the Sun Chronicle and local cable TV talk show host. Feel free to read, comment and enjoy!
Monday, August 4, 2014
North Attleboro Needs A New Approach
This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, August 4, 2014.
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
you are a town manager or town administrator in a community facing serious
revenue and budgetary issues, you have to be open to a wide variety of possible
solutions to your municipality’s very real problems.
their huge unpopularity and dismal success rate, that has to include possible
overrides of Proposition 2-1/2.Which is
why North Attleboro’s veteran town administrator and former selectman Mark
Fisher keeps talking about doing just that.
financial problems.Their schools are
clamoring for more funding.Their police
department has fewer officers than it did a decade ago.They spent over $1 million from their reserve
funds this year just to maintain services, a sum that most likely won’t be
available next budget season.The
financial future looks bleak, to say the least.
get real.The odds of getting a general
override passed in North Attleboro next year are about equal to the odds of me
starting for the Red Sox next Opening Day.Come to think of it, I may have a better shot.
voters overwhelmingly crushed an override question just last year.Over 7000 registered voters cast ballots, and
nearly 5000 of them voted against the override.And this was after a coordinated and dedicated effort to “educate and
inform” voters as to the serious financial plight of the community, including
the formation of the pro-override citizen group “Yes for North” and a series of
public informational presentations by Fisher.
that to the most recent town election where selectmen and others were chosen.Barely 2000 people bothered to vote at all,
which was actually an increase from the previous year.The number of “No” votes against the override
was double the total turnout from this past April.Think that sends a message to those elected
the town will likely conduct some type of survey to better understand why
voters rejected the override last year.He says that could include emailing questions to school parents, town
employees, RTM members and others.
officials need a survey to understand why their constituents voted against that
override, then they have more than just financial problems.
Let me see
if I can save them some time and keystrokes.
Attleboro voters overwhelmingly voted against the ballot question because they
simply don’t want to pay more taxes.They don’t need be “educated”, they have a pretty good understanding of
how and why the town needs more money.They just don’t want it coming from their property taxes.
they don’t believe their town government is truly representing or listening to
them.They are hesitant (to put it
mildly) to give more money to an entity that seems to care more about itself
than them.They are sick and tired of a
local government asking their opinion on matters like government reform, and
then consistently ignoring it.
– history tells them if they just keep turning down overrides, the town will
somehow find another way to get by.After all, it has happened time and time again.Unexpected grants come in, reserve funds are
raided, state aid increases, and the threatened severe budget cuts are
miraculously avoided.They believe
officials are using scare tactics, and they are essentially calling their
Now even if
you take all that as an accurate analysis (and there are plenty who disagree),
the question becomes:What can be done
to address the budget woes in North Attleboro?
is – give the people what they voted for.
Attleboro citizens decide not to provide any additional funding, town officials
should give them the services that budget will allow.If voters decline to pass an override, cut
the budget in the most responsible manner possible and live with the
not mean they should deliberately make things worse and needlessly slash important
services just to make a political point.But they do need to prove they are not just bluffing.Taxpayers are much more likely to vote to
restore cuts than avoid them.
The key to
solving North’s budget problems may be as simple as listening to the voters
when they speak.
Attleboro, that would be a new and different approach.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and
longtime local official.He can be
emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at