We’re disappointed Gardner did not follow the priorities set by residents in the 2011 DirectionFinder Survey when they approved the 2012 budget with a split vote at their Aug. 15 meeting.
At a cost of $25,000, the survey clearly indicates “Services that residents thought should receive the most increase in emphasis over the next two years” were traffic flow, maintenance of city streets and city water, sewer and electric utilities. Satisfaction with public safety presence, public education programs and emphasis/resources to combat drug activity decreased.
If the survey has merit, these were clearly the public’s priorities. But apparently not the city’s.
The Gardner council, with Chris Morrow and Larry Fotovich dissenting, passed a budget that cut three police officers, raised utility rates and provided little money for street improvements.
Yet, the city’s $8.7 million general fund budget in 2012 is approximately 2 percent higher than the 2011 budget. Melissa Mundt, interim city administrator, said the tight 2012 budget limits road and utility projects.
According to the city budget, “Per the Center for Performance Measurement, the average annual expenditure for street maintenance by cities is $2,500. The city of Gardner’s annual expenditure, per lane mile is $1,000 which is the lowest of reporting cities.”
Further, “The best practice is to crack fill 100 percent of city streets annually. Current staffing limits production to approximately 40 percent of city streets.”
We don’t have a problem with the three percent employee raise, or reclassifying employees for a higher pay rate. Nor do we have a problem with conferences, travel, association dues and park supplies.
But to spend money to survey residents, and then go against survey results shows the city has its priorities skewed.
If you leave the nuts and bolts off a bicycle the wheels will eventually fall off. Same with a budget that fails to emphasize infrastructure and public safety.