Ever get an unexpected windfall? Perhaps a relative has died, leaving you some cash. Maybe Social Security makes an adjustment in your monthly benefit because you’ve had to keep working to stay afloat. Or maybe your employer gave you an unanticipated bonus.
Do you go out and buy whatever you’ve been wanting but can’t afford? Or do you save most of the money so that when unexpected expenses arise, and they will, or taxes come due, and they will, you can still pay your bills.
That latter choice may be how you manage your personal expenses, but it’s not what we tend to see in local and school government. But if we followed the lead of town and school government, we’d take that money and head to Hawaii or Paris, buy some new clothes or furniture, and get a bigger TV. Too bad none of that cash would be around to pay for the steadily increasing tax bill we’ll continue to find in our mailbox twice a year.
An example? The Londonderry School District has received $1,275,000 in unexpected money from School Care health insurance. Could much of that go to offset taxes and give taxpayers a break, rather than have them scramble to find the cash to meet the budget increases they face every year?
Not likely. Instead, the district’s business director told the school board the money could go for lacrosse field lights, equipment purchases that had been expected in FY16, a courtyard for North School, engineering and architectural costs for a proposed auditorium, accelerating the purchase of curriculum, and maintenance projects.
The board was slated to discuss all of this at its Tuesday night meeting, after the Londonderry Times went to press.
But regardless of its decision, this shopping list is a great example of pursuing wants, not needs, and asking to go on a spending spree, rather than helping out the taxpayers or saving for the rainy day bills we all know will be coming.
And while we’d like to think there is some truth to the idea that economic development equals lower taxes, if past spending practices are any indication, we doubt it.
The Hampstead School Board is taking a different tack. After renovation plans were soundly defeated by voters in March, a special work session has been called to discuss what renovations voters might favor for the coming warrant. We’d like to think the answer could be “none of the above” as well as the multiple choices. But at least the school board has recognized that voters did not wish to spend a huge sum of money on buildings.
Are some of the Hampstead proposals worthwhile? Sure. Are they needed right now? That’s a question for the board to answer honestly. Just because they appeared on a list doesn’t mean they are needs, not wants.