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Curmudgeon's Corner

cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner

Village Buzz - Village Budget Debate

Fire Department, Germantown, Police, Political, Quality of Life, Taxes, Village Board, Village Buzz

The Committee of the Whole (Village Board but not a formal Board meeting) reviewed the proposed budget for the coming year during a meeting this past Monday evening.  Dave Schornack and Kim Rath presented the initial proposed budget that added increased costs to current levels and it came in at a rate increase of some 3.7%.

The 3.7% rate increase would amount to between $4.00 and $5.00 per month on the average home in Germantown, and would enable the village to maintain current levels of service.  Recognizing that there have been something on the order of 17 positions eliminated already, this seems to be a very reasonable budget proposal even given the current economy.

Trustee Zabel asked to see what a 0% increase budget would do to the village, and Dave Schornack advised that it would entail more lay-offs and cuts across the board.  Zabel was apparently concerned with the overall tax increase including schools and the MATC.  Schornack and Rath have been charged with bringing that 0% budget back to the trustees for their review.

If we look at this from what I think is a common-sense approach, we are about as 'skinny' as we dare to get so far as the village employees charged with snow plowing and their other duties.  My recollection was that last winter saw a reduction in service levels compared to what we had been accustomed to seeing.  A further reduction would potentially bring some serious consequences, such as increased accidents and the accompanying police and fire calls that would risk cost overruns being incurred, especially if the departments were reduced by a position or two..

A 0% increase budget would likely mean a reduction in police and fire department staffing or equipment or both; although I've not discussed that with those officials; common-sense, again, would indicate that more cuts will see smaller staffs in both areas.  There is some discussion about the union people being approached with the request that they re-open their current contracts and agree to 0% increases for the coming year.  The unspoken threat would certainly be more layoffs.  It is very unlikely, in my opinion, that any bargaining unit would agree to this, therefore cuts would occur.

As seems to be a perpetual thought, there was the question posed as to whether or not the village should approach the Washington County Sheriff for a proposal to see what that unit would charge to patrol the village streets and roadways.  A few things hit me when that thought crosses my mind.  We are a community of some 20,000 residents now; those communities that rely on sheriffs' patrols are typically much smaller than Germantown.  And, the service we would get would not be that to which we've all become accustomed.  Additionally, the sheriff would easily be able to low ball the proposed costs by simply coming in under the police department's budget numbers that are readily available to him.  This happens in virtually all such situations; it is human nature to try to win a "competition".  That is the nature of putting our safety out to bid and will almost assuredly result in hidden costs after we've disbanded the GPD so we'd have little or no recourse.

Please let your trustee know what you think about all this.  You can find his or her contact information on the village website by clicking here

There is a very real question in my mind and it is this:  What do the citizens of Germantown want and expect from the village?  The second question is:  How many citizens do the trustees poll before reaching their conclusions.  No one has ever asked me what I think about these things.  Are there simply a few individuals that bend these ears all the time.  Let them hear from you soon if you have an opinion.  If you don't talk with them, they'll do what they think you want, and that may well not be what you really want.

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The Curmudgeon Blog today is titled "Now What?".

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