In preparation for moderating Town Meeting on the first Tuesday in March, I’ve been reading the Town Report.
At its most basic, the Town Report contains the financial reports for the fiscal year that ends the previous June. In truth, it’s much more, and says a great deal about the town, starting with the cover and running one hundred and thirty pages.
This year’s report is dedicated to Bob Litchfield, who is “always volunteering and lending a hand to anyone in need,” as the brief bio states.
It’s true: Bob brings out the best in us; he inspires us to public service.
The rest of the report is all business, beginning with the Warning – what we call our agenda – listing the articles that the citizen legislators will vote on.
More Than Just Taxes
On the surface, it looks as if every article is about taxation: authorizing the Treasurer to collect them, charging late fees to late payers, planning for future Capital Needs, and passing a budget. The proposed budget for both running the town and keeping the roads in good repair in the coming year comes in at $1,435,734. The school budget, which is significantly higher, is now voted on a different day and time.
Reading the budget details and the committee reports gives a good idea of Newfane residents’ shared values for living in community, which include but are not limited to:
- Fiscal restraint: the proposed budget would raise the tax rate approximately one and a half cents, or about an additional $30/year for the owner of a $200,000 house.
- A tradition of service: About fifty different people’s names are listed as Town Officers. That’s about 3% of the town’s total population of 1700 and over 5% of the registered voters. These officials serve in a variety of elected and appointed positions, from the Board of Civil Authority to the Windham Regional Commission, keeping the town functional. Additionally, uncounted citizens volunteer their time and talents to make Newfane a culturally vibrant, safe, and interesting place to live.
- Concern for safety: Both the Selectboard and the Planning Commission Reports discuss the traffic-calming work done this past year to reduce speeding through the town’s three villages, making our roads safer for pedestrians and improving our quality of life.
- Fiscal Transparency: The outside auditor’s report takes up a good portion of the Town Report. Their conclusion: the town’s book balance.
- Concern for Quality of Life: These are the thirty-seven social service agencies and non-profits making life better from cradle to grave. Historically, Newfane voters generously support a variety of social services, – from nursery school to hospice – by raising more than $90,000 in taxes.
- Gratitude: The reports of the recipients of this tax money all express their gratitude for Newfane’s support of their services.
- History & Community: The budget includes money toward the upkeep and improvement of several historic buildings which are still in use, like the Williamsville Hall, where this year’s Town Meeting will take place.
- Safety: The town votes money toward supporting the remarkable Newbrook Volunteer Fire & Rescue, which responds to emergencies, from fires to floods.
- Generosity: Throughout this year’s Town Report are expressions of gratitude toward those who’ve helped, whether it’s been volunteering time or voting to support a special initiative.
Generosity and Gratitude
Generosity and gratitude, in particular, are two good cornerstones for civic life, and this year’s Town Report is full of it: to the many citizens who initiated and served on the traffic calming committee, to the road crew, for keeping the roads in excellent shape. This year’s Town Report, designed and coordinated by Shannon Meckle, is filled with thanks, including thanks to Shannon, who’s leaving her position as the Administrative Assistant to the Selectboard after ten years to pursue a legal career when the gavel falls at the end of this year’s meeting. Thanks, Shannon – and best wishes.
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