On February 24, 2016

Truth in numbers

Dear Editor,

I have read and studied in detail Mr. Haff’s interpretation of the town report numbers and his plan for the town. There is so much lack of accuracy and misinformation. Town report numbers from past years show it was Mr. Haff’s years in office when the can was truly kicked down the road. Capital contributions have increased over 75 percent since he left the Select Board.

As far as his numbers from the current town report, he conveniently forgets to add in the non-property tax revenue of over $750,000 that will be collected from January to June of this year (page 15 of the town report, in which the estimates for this winter’s option taxes have already been reduced over 21 percent from last year and unpaid revenue from FEMA, is not included).

In addition, Mr. Haff once again confuses cash accounting and accrual accounting, subtracting $800,000 FEMA expenses from our cash balance, which has already been paid and subtracted. If you correct those mistakes, the $733,000 he claims we have left for January-June is actually almost $2.29 million.

Mr. Haff also criticizes the board for not putting articles on this year’s ballot to fund the pool (which is 8-10 years down the road), the irrigation system at the golf course (already being funded for by golf revenues and in the golf capital plan) or the much needed fire/public safety building. Since we have not yet found an appropriate piece of land for the fire station, we couldn’t possibly know the scope or cost of the project. Most people would not vote for more bonded debt without a detailed estimate of the cost, nor should they. I am thrilled, however, that people do understand how important these projects are so that when we do put a plan to the voters, we’ll be able to move forward in a timely fashion.

Mr. Haff often complains that I am too interested in supporting the economic development of our town. Please let me explain: A vibrant, economically healthy town maintains its tax base and, thus, its tax revenues to support good infrastructure and services. Additionally, the options taxes are directly tied to our town’s economic vitality. Since 2011, when the town voted for the option taxes to be used within the general fund, the municipal budget has become dependent on revenues from economic activity (rooms, meals, alcohol and sales). Option tax revenues currently make up over 23 percent of our municipal revenues (up from 20 percent in 2014 and 2013, 18 percent in 2012). In other words, if we let our economy slide, our revenues will also slide causing more pressure on property taxes.

Mr. Haff only looks at one side of the equation: cut spending to balance a budget. I look at both sides, limit spending and look for new revenues. He claims to want to keep our most successful EDT ventures: Stage race, AJGA, Classic Motorcycle, Cooler in the Mountains, but then wants to get rid of the people who actually organize, arrange volunteers, write contracts, prepare and market these events. That makes no sense!

Then there is Mr Haff’s plan of borrowing $15 million; I cannot support this for many reasons. First, and foremost, it would triple our debt load. Second, there is absolutely no detail in how he arrived at those numbers, nor is there a detailed plan for spending the money. His numbers are extremely rough estimates at best, and wild guesses at worst. Third, by putting everything in one loan, we would be paying interest on money we wouldn’t even be using for several years. The plan does not make financial sense.

Voters, do you want a selectperson who makes grandiose plans with little detail and big cost, and who proposes to pay for it by cutting other areas that are actually working?

As a selectperson I have worked diligently the past three years to create a calm and deliberate atmosphere, in which we can solve the town’s issues in a fair and balanced manner for residents, property owners and businesses alike. I plan to continue to move forward with all aspects of our town in a reasonable and cost effective manner, if voted in for another term, March 1.

Thank you for your time consideration,

Patty McGrath, Killington Selectboard Chair

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