Kane: We need to get a few things straight when it comes to STRESS

Kane: We need to get a few things straight when it comes to STRESS

At the special meeting of the Town Council on May 31 I proposed a cut to a line item labeled STRESS. The purpose of this line item is to help reduce speeding in the town, something that many town residents, myself included, will tell you is needed. This line item has been added to several prior budgets and never expended. The current police department budget is roughly $4.4 million, amounting to approximately 4 percent of the town’s overall operating budget. The council removed this STRESS line item of $5,000, representing about one-tenth of a percent of the total police budget, instead shifting this money toward needed expenditures in an effort to thwart our continual over-reliance on surplus funds.

On that same night at the very beginning of the meeting, Mayor Murray and his finance director, Jason Parmalee, recommended a cut of $518,396 to the police budget in ordinance 18-11. This amendment was needed to balance the tax levy after the administration discovered they were unable to use $1 million in bond premiums to fund the budget as they desired. This issue was extensively detailed in a Valley Breeze article from April 25 titled “Accusations of ‘levymandering’ as Cumberland officials approve tax rate."

When over half a million dollars, roughly 11 percent, was on the table to cut out of the police budget, Councilwoman Lisa Beaulieu voted against the proposal. What’s more damaging to the police department budget and its continued efforts to keep our town safe, a $5,000 line item unexpended for the last five years, or the $500,000 that was eliminated due to continually inefficient financial decisions?

Having experienced the management of a multimillion dollar financial budget firsthand, I do not classify a $5,000 decrease as a “stripping” of police funds. Our police department added additional patrols to the force with their current budget, certainly something to be celebrated as a step in the right direction rather than considering it a bunch of fluffy. When the police department requests additional funds for their budget in subsequent years, it will hopefully be something the town can afford – because our surplus fund cannot.

While we’re on the subject of surplus funds and cuts, members of our town’s administration might consider personally contributing to continue the annual holiday party for Town Hall employees. It’s a small gesture of appreciation for the staff, one in which I am glad to partake every December for my own office team.

This election season, we’re seeing several local campaigns focus only on selective details, miniscule budgetary cuts as an example, rather than big picture ideas and actions. Campaigning in this manner sets a dangerous precedent of misinformation and does little more than generate white noise, far from the desired result of earning a vote.

I encourage the voters of District 3 to continue supporting Lisa Beaulieu and her successful track record when they turn to the polls on primary day. While no candidate deserves your vote, she has earned it.

Tom Kane
Cumberland Town Council