Election Day is Tuesday, November 8. Voters can cast their ballots at Memorial School from 7am until 8pm. Nearly 1,000 voters have taken advantage of the new early voting option available at Town Hall; early voting ends Thursday, November 3 at 8pm.
In addition to the national and state contests on the ballot, as well as the statewide referendum questions, the Selectmen and Finance Committee will offer a short survey as people enter the polling place. Please take a couple of minutes to answer the questions regarding Town expenditures and revenue options. Answers will help guide the crafting of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget that will be presented to voters at the Annual Town Meeting in April. The survey is not part of the official ballot and can be completed online as well; click here to start the survey. The survey will be open until November 21.
The survey includes eight questions. Questions 1 through 3 ask if you feel municipal services should be reduced in order to save money and if so, what reductions would you make? In the comment section, you can share your ideas. And if you have a suggestion for saving money that would not impact services, all the better.
Question 4 seeks your input on whether the Town should encourage more commercial development in town and, if so, Question 5 asks for your thoughts on where. Commercial properties typically demand fewer services and can boost real estate tax collections, the Town’s primary source of revenue. The Limited Commercial District on upper School Street on the northern side of Route 128 is one area that some suggest we should allow more commercial development as long as strict measures are taken to protect our watershed. The General District along Central, Union, Beach and Summer Streets is another area some recommend greater density with the condition that the historic look and feel of the area be maintained.
Question 6 seeks your opinion about continuing to approve debt exclusion votes for the borrowing of money for our needed improvements to our roads, pipes, buildings, and harbor. A debt exclusion means the funds to repay the borrowing are not counted toward our taxation limit under the laws of Proposition 2½. Thus, a new borrowing can cause a tax increase higher than the 2 ½ % limit we normally face. Historically, the Town has approved debt exclusions for new borrowings. While our five-year capital plan aims to only seek new bonds as old bonds retire, additions to the capital plan may require more debt than we currently carry – for example, a new elementary school and seawall repairs.
Whether we should be more aggressive in pursuing shared services with our municipal neighbors is the topic for Question 7. While regional services are common outside of New England, there is a strong tradition of cities and towns providing their own services in our area. There has been new interest in shared services in some communities. Is there a willingness to relinquish some local control here Manchester in exchange for saving money and/or improving services in certain areas? What areas might be well suited for a regional approach?
Finally, in Question 8, we ask if you have ideas for new opportunities to partner with businesses or non-profit organizations to provide for some of our community needs. What might these needs be and with whom might we partner?
Your input on these questions will be very helpful as we begin the process of developing the FY18 budget. I look forward to hearing your responses. Happy voting.