It has been a honor to serve the people of Holden. The longer I serve, the more I understand citizens want their selectmen to solve community problems, and to help residents resolve issues that are important to them. Through this experience, I’ve developed a through knowledge of the process in which decisions are made, and have worked to encourage leaders to find compromises that work.
The budget resolution with the school district this year should serve as a model for future years. I played a positive role in ensuring this outcome by engaging in the process and influencing decision makers where I could. If given a chance to serve another term, I would work to renew the contract with our manager.
One of my opponents has stated he would fire her and has made pointed criticisms of our collective actions. First, the manager deserves another contract. This past year she convinced the town employees to switch to the Group Insurance Commission. While many of the employees are concerned about this change, they have saved Holden taxpayers more than 550,000$ and will realize additional savings going forward.
Thank you to all of them for agreeing to this. The manager has also established a 5 year financial plan. Holden has never had this type of forward looking planning tool to do financial forecasting.
My fellow board members refuse to raise the tax rate this year to 2.5% even in the face of massive projected deficits in the next budget cycle. We have raised taxes to the levy limit every year since proposition 2.5 was put in place and our tax rate is still lower than 3 of the other 4 Wachusett towns. By not raising taxes to the levy limit, we will significantly impact our ability to raise revenue next year.
The five year financial forecast should be used to guide our decisions but it serves no one if we don’t use it. Another criticism is how we implemented water and sewer rate restructuring. When the manager took over, the water and sewer operation was in such financial dissarray that the department of revenue had threatened to prevent the town from setting its tax rate if this account was not properly restructured.
The new rates account for fixed charges and everyone tied into the system has to share these costs. Please be cautious of those who propose simple solutions. The selectmen have also been criticized for a lack of economic development. This spring our community has seen more economic activity than at any time in the last ten years. We have a dedicated growth management director that serves as a point person who works closely with developers.
Lastly, I was criticized for promoting the idea we separate the light department management from the town management. This decision, taken upon the departure of the previous administration, has led to steady reduction in electric rates and managerial focus on improving the delivery and affordability of electricity to town residents.