To the Editor:
On Feb. 11, Berlin citizens had a great event! A milestone for our community. We were shown the renovated as-new high school. It is truly a beautiful building. It doesn’t matter if you supported the project, or not. It is now substantially complete and ready for our students and community. Now all we have to do is pay for it.
This will be a challenge with the governor and state leaders cutting aid to our town. Nobody knows for sure what part of the cost will actually be paid for by Berlin taxpayers. I was impressed by those involved congratulating each other for completing the project within the budget. Of course nobody mentioned this happened with a state law change to add $15 million above what the voters approved for the building, or paying for parts of this project (such as the tennis and basketball court renovation, a generator, the expenses of the construction staging area across the street from the school, removing trees, and re-designing the student drop-off parking lot) using tax dollars not designated for the project.
The school is truly a wonderful addition to our town, but we still need to move ahead with more pressing improvements. Public buildings, town roads and bridges, and other infrastructures (water and sewer lines) cannot be neglected and continue to fall into disrepair, as our high school did. Having such a large project to pay for now, we must move carefully and make sure we find the best value possible.
The temporary town manager is working closely with the finance director, and staff and understands the importance of long-term planning so costs do not have to be hidden from taxpayers (as they were on our high school budget).
One good example of the long-term planning is our road replacement. A road will last approximately 20 years, if re-paved properly. Berlin has about 110 miles of roads. Planning to replace five or six miles each year will distribute costs so taxpayers will understand what to expect without major surprises.
The Berlin Fire Departments have also taken this approach to replace aging fire trucks in several stages with a careful plan so our costs are known ahead of time and can be planned out.
The town manager has experience in projecting out capital improvement projects and is scheduling items in several departments to be on an a rotating schedule. He sees the big picture. Some of us on the Town Council understand that the old “tax and spend” method of management is no longer possible to maintain. We have to take a long, hard look at local spending, and how poor leadership at the state level is hurting us.
Come to the budget hearings to see how your tax dollars are being spent.
Town councilmen have little to say about how the education expenses are being dispersed, so you should listen to their proposals and be prepared to offer suggestions on ways to spend your tax dollars wisely.