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Vote 'no' on article 26, Ashland needs a Budget Committee

To the editor,
The Ashland Selectboard decided to add one last warrant article to present to the voters of Ashland. That is Article 26 which states: Are you in favor of abolishing Ashland's Budget Committee pursuant to RSA 32:14,V and instead having the Board of Selectmen prepare and present the budget and hold the required public hearings?
In our current system, we have a nine-member Budget Committee consisting of seven elected members, an appointed Selectboard member (and alternate), and an appointed School Board member (and alternate).
Prior to the budget season, the Budget Committee meets with each of the department heads, the school, and the utilities at least once during the year to review current budget status and upcoming fiscal issues.
In the fall, the town department heads prepare their budgets, which are then reviewed and/or adjusted by the Selectboard and presented to the Budget Committee. The school goes through the same process with staff, administrators and the School Board before presenting to the Budget Committee. The utilities, which are primarily funded through fees and not property tax, prepare their budgets and present them to the Budget Committee for review and/or adjustment.
The Budget Committee then meets with each department to understand all issues. As it reviews and adjusts each individual budget, it considers not only the individual department needs, but also the larger picture of the town's medium and long-term needs, revenues, other funding sources, and the potential effect on the property tax dollars that will be required. Each meeting of the Budget Committee also provides an opportunity for public comment.
During this year's budget season, the Budget Committee also conducted two financial forums (available on Local Public TV) in an effort to inform the public on the current financial situation of the town and provide the opportunity to offer feedback.
The Budget Committee presents the budget at a public hearing where public input is taken and then may make additional adjustments based on the public's feedback. The budget is presented at the deliberative session where voters have the opportunity to amend the budget or warrant articles. The final budget is then voted on by the voters in March.
We believe that the current process allows for a transparent and effective budget review and preparation with a perspective from the departments, the governing bodies, and the budget committee. This provides an effective look at the impact of all budgets as a total on the property tax burden, a balanced approach to short and long term needs and allows the voter to be better informed in their decision process.
Ultimately, Ashland voters need to decide if a majority vote of two Selectboard members should govern the town, and also prepare and present the town and utility budgets to the voters, while the school would prepare and present their budget is the preferred structure to best serve the short and long term needs of Ashland.
We recommend that you Vote NO on article 26
A No Vote on Article 26 will keep the present Budget Committee process in place
Ashland Budget Committee
Steve Felton, Chairman
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