L. Greaney: Transparency in local government

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As an independent voter leaning toward conservative policies, I enjoy watching the various forms of American government trying to explain themselves in their respective “State of the Union” or “States of the State.”

Perhaps the voters in each Maine municipality should request and expect municipal officials to prepare for a transparent “State of the Municipality” presentation of facts without political spin.

The towns of Millinocket and Rumford face dramatic revenue shortfalls and the fear of higher property taxes if their respective paper mills continue their downward spiral.

In Rumford, interim Town Manager John Madigan possesses a big-picture view of the budgetary concerns, including the cost and the need for efficiency of services, job losses, employee concerns, property tax revenue, state revenue sharing, grants, reserve fund balances, liabilities, economic development opportunities, county taxes and the school budget. His challenge is to package the communications regarding the risks and opportunities in a transparent manner.

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It will be crucial for Rumford officials to embark on a meeting of the minds to understand the variables, which could impact the voter approval or rejection, in June, of any proposed spending plan for 2014-2015. Property tax increases are viewed as taboo.

Clarity and transparency will be critical to explain the trends and a new reality.

Ideally, town officials will prepare a “State of Rumford” presentation for public consumption at a selectmen’s meeting and local access channel prior to the formal budget process.

The information should/will encourage voter participation.

Len Greaney, Rumford Center

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