Just got back from a 3 hour annual budget meeting at the Sidney Town Hall. There were 5 folks there to present their requests for funding and, besides myself, I think there was one other townsperson there just for the sake of listening in.
I love numbers, and budgeting, so it was a pretty interesting meeting to me. And the chair of the budget committee, John (I’ll have to find his last name), was a humorous hoot. He’d make an excellent auctioneer, too.
I thought on the way home that it really is a shame that more Sidney residents don’t attend these annual meetings – and for years, I didn’t either. This thought is not meant to pass judgment on any Sidney resident. Folks are busy with young families, older families, and just life in general. I fell into that category for many years. And now, as my kids are older and more independent, I find I have more time, and desire, to participate.
A lot of important discussions take place. Discussions like deciding which charity requests for funding will be presented to the townsfolk of Sidney on March 24th at the Annual Town Meeting for voting. How much funding for new equipment, supplies, maintenance, etc. that our volunteer Fire & Rescue folks get. Thoughts and procedures for new town ordinances. Lots of things.
For Sidney, one particularly sensitive issue arises repeatedly. It becomes an emotional and administrative tug-of-war to support the vast number of charity donation and support requests that come through. Everyone needs more money. In our hearts most wish all could be funded. But they cannot. In most cases, support requests get a motion for $0 dollars from the Board of Selectmen with a request to raise the requested amount. This means it goes before the citizens of Sidney for a vote at the annual town meeting. A point was made at the budget meeting today that normally it’s the folks who need the services from said charities that show up at the meeting to vote…and no matter how many voters there are, majority wins.
Sidney has about 4,200 residents, a large portion which are eligible to vote. Only about 40 folks, roughly 1%, show up at the town meeting. And if they vote YES on a measure that will add $1-2 tax dollars to your bill to pay for raising that money, the majority of Sidney is left to simply accept the decision. Now, this is not to say that its not a good vote.
I would support paying $1 to $2 dollars extra on my tax bill to support charities that provide quantifiable/justifiable life-enhancing/life-saving services to our elder and disabled residents. Charities like Spectrum Generations and Life Flight. We are a small, rural town tucked between 2 larger towns and our taxes are one of the lowest in Maine, because we have no overhead services, no post office, no police department. Services provided by Spectrum Generations and Life Flight can sometimes make the difference between life and death. I would gladly pay a few extra dollars on my taxes to support such charities. I would not, however, like my taxes to be raised for a charity that doesn’t provide substantial benefit to my community, small as it is. And, fair point, there are folks in Sidney who have trouble paying their annual property taxes, let alone support charities by having their taxes raised.
I would encourage Sidney residents to participate in the annual budget meeting in February and the annual town meeting in March. Grab a cup of Joe from Annie’s Variety Store or the Middle Road General Store and schedule 3 hours of your time just a couple times a year to be a more informed resident.
We also need more women. There are NO women on the budget committee. There are women on the Select Board.
Rise up my Sidney brethren. Find some time here or there. Make your voice heard and use your vote to effect changes you want (or don’t want!) Take a look at the calendar on Sidney’s website and keep up to date on Sidney’s Facebook page.
I’ll be there with a smile ready to shake your hand and show you around 🙂