This letter is in response to your editorial in the May 3 edition of the Mashpee Enterprise about a meeting that occurred in March, two months prior.
Publishing it the Friday before our Monday Town Meeting was, in my opinion, a deliberate move to avoid the chance for any type of rebuttal before the voters were asked to approve the annual operating budget.
I want to assure you that I am completely schooled on New England Democracy and as a resident and voter myself, know that the will of the people expressed through the town meeting process is what governs our town.
In addition, it is our duty as public officials to ensure that they cast those votes knowing what the result of their decision will be.
You proved the exact point I was trying to make when you stated maybe we should reduce the budget (the recommended amount had been roughly $1 million) and reduce services.
Throwing a statement like that out to the voters without explaining the repercussions of such a reduction is a disservice to our residents.
They have the right to know that the reductions as presented by the working group would have resulted in, just to name a few: multiple lay-offs leading to unemployment costs, inadequate funding of fixed costs, jeopardizing the $4 million in state grant funds we received when we built our library, and reducing public safety services desperately needed in a time when we are in the grip of an opioid crisis.
As it turns out, once they became educated themselves, the finance committee chose to recommend a total reduction of $91,000; quite a difference from their million-dollar-plus initial figure.
My frustration was with how these reductions were presented without any communication beforehand.
Prior to this meeting I had provided members with multiple financial reports going back several years. I knew the budget process was down to the 11th hour so I made their requests a priority and produced this information as quickly as possible. Throughout the requesting/providing of various reports, not one member asked for clarification, explanation or background history to the numbers they were reviewing.
I was shocked that the day before the meeting, they provided a list of reductions based solely on one thing: the unspent funds the departments turned back. I was in disbelief that their message to departments was, “If you did not use it in the prior year, you are not getting it in the next.”
Per the charter, our departments are required to submit their next-year budget requests when they are barely into the first quarter of the current fiscal year.
Even with that challenge, they formulate budgets responsibly, trying to anticipate what expenses they may encounter in the next year. If some of the anticipated expenses do not come to fruition by the end of the year, they return the unexpended funds.
In my 22 years of working for the town, I do not recall departments being punished for returning the unexpended portion of their budget. Department budget turn backs become available funds for the next year’s operations and are looked upon favorably by the bond rating agency.
Which leads to another frustration: the constant criticism by some members of the committee regarding our financial practices.
We recently had another review of our bond rating and the result was sustaining our AAA status. This saves the town hundreds of thousands of dollars in borrowing costs. At the end of our conference call, the parting words of the rating agency regarding our financial practices were, “Keep doing what you are doing.”
I want to end my letter saying I truly appreciate all the volunteers that give their time to our community and want all the residents to know that I am and always will be transparent, available and keeping their best financial interest in the forefront.
As Paul Harvey used to say, “Now you know the rest of the story.”
Ms. Thayer is finance director for the Town of Mashpee.