A few years back the Town of Merrimack fell victim to the glittering dream that a Town Charter form of government under RSA 49 was the answer to their overspending woes. With one simple vote they gave away what little financial control they had of that town.
Like fools they hired a former Bedford Town Manager, Keith Hickey, to do a professional job of running the town - along with the supervision of the new Town Council. Smart people – professionals, no more of this sporadic taxpayer revolt stuff in Merrimack. Now we will see what a professional team of municipal experts can do with a budget, forget all that voter participation nonsense with those unanticipated swings in revenue, stopping the “forward progress” of the community.
Did you catch the $1.1 million dollar mistake they just “found” in the new set of professional books “His Highness Hickey” drafted in the fall of 2006? Remember, they hired this character in the spring of 2006. It was supposed to be peaches and ice cream, dandy lions and gumdrops for all.
Well it’s the old “we put the million dollars in the wrong place” story we hear from so many experts in schools and towns all over NH.
But you know what is so enlightening about these mishap stories? The town officials are always afforded the great big benefit of the doubt for a million dollar mistake. On the other hand, let a taxpayer group, or any citizen for that matter, suggest cutting a budget and blood shoots from the eyes of the municipalitarians in charge. How ever will they exist without exactly what the say they want?
Not to worry though. After every professional million dollar mistake, the experts will always find a way to work the mistake into the existing budget without an embarrassing special town meeting where some answers and sweat can be wrung from anyone in charge.
Taxpayers pare a few thousand from a million dollar budget by cutting the left-over funds from the previous year and mayhem breaks out.
Town managers misplace a few million, or don’t produce state mandated financial reports, hide excess funds, pad employees pay, put thousand dollar cherry floors in their office, and the local papers find it slightly interesting.
From now until the end of the fiscal year Merrimack will only be able to pay for emergency expenditures and contractual obligations, according to Town Manager Hickey.
And exactly how is this different than a taxpayer budget cut at one of the past, traditional town meetings – other than having a high priced team of financial experts spewing out excuses?
This is the stuff taxpayer revolts are made of.