Vote ‘No’ on Exeter’s Town Budget
Exeter citizens gathered at the high school on February 1st to participate in the deliberative session, part one of the annual two step Town Meeting process. The articles were debated and the warrant was established for the March 11th election, part 2 of the process. I will be voting ‘no’ on the proposed Town Budget, Warrant Article #10, due to the inclusion of the economic development director position. With the elimination of the economic development director position costs, the default budget is very close to the proposed 2014 budget and adequate to conduct Town business.
The Board of Selectmen and the Town Manager have not created an economic development plan that would justify hiring an additional Town employee at an estimated annual cost of $110,000. The economic development director position would have to achieve an increase to the tax base of approximately $4,000,000 per year to pay for itself going forward.
The Board of Selectmen and the Town Manager should create an economic development plan that includes an inventory of land in town that could be developed, including areas such as Epping Road and the downtown area. The plan should include goals, milestone and metrics to monitor the progress on both development and the resultant parallel increase in the tax base. It would be prudent to hire a contractor to create the economic development plan and determine if the economic development director position is feasible in the long term. Once the plan is in place and the long-term feasibility is established, a permanent Town employee could be considered.
The Somersworth Economic Development Director spoke during the deliberative session and described the director position as responsible for working with the existing businesses. The addition of new businesses is the responsibility of a second position, a recruiter. The Somersworth perspective is another reason for creating an economic development plan prior to hiring a permanent Town employee at an annual cost of $110,000 or potentially two employees.
The March 11th election, step 2 of the Town Meeting process, is your opportunity. My recommendation - vote no on the Town Budget, Article #10.