We care about our taxes, right? Complain bitterly about them?

Then why is it that so few people get out and vote on local spending?

We
are mid-way through the annual town meeting season, for those towns
that still convene these meetings, and attendance to date has been
sparse.

Schools are deep into the process of finalizing budgets
for approval and, relying on last year’s participation rates as a
predictor, a majority of residents won’t bother to go to the polls.

Are
we simply too busy to attend meetings or to drive to voting centers? Or
is it because it’s easier to complain about our taxes than to do
anything about them?

Hard to know, but the end result is that in
too many towns there are too few people approving spending for the vast
majority. That’s how we ended up with the government we have, the
government that we blame for over-taxing and over-spending.

In
Jay, where there was grim news this week about the neighboring Wausau
mill closing, residents are getting set to vote on a proposed $9.7
million school budget. That’s less than last year and includes paying a
$216,000 state penalty for voters’ decision not to consolidate with
another school district. The proposal equals no new taxes for locals.

This
is a town where voters are involved and town officials don’t just talk
about tight budgets, they produce tight budgets. This year’s school
spending proposal is just over a half-million dollars more than the
district spent in 2000, an enviable position given the rapid pace costs
have risen in the past eight years, and a comparably smaller increase
than seen in many – maybe most – other school districts in Maine.

So,
while the people of Jay may be reeling over the mill closure, they
haven’t taxed themselves into the pain that other communities have
because they have taken control over what they can control: local
spending.

It’s going to be tough going in Jay in the coming
years without the mill, but tough action by citizens to watch spending
in the past may provide some cushion.

The folks in Jay can give lessons in toughness. It’s time other Mainers learn the same, and voting on spending is lesson 101.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.