Dear Mayor Lehman and Members of the Council,
I am writing in regard to the proposed use of voter-approved funds in conjunction with the current fiscal difficulties of the town and the settlement of the MLLA judgment.
Following the intent of the voters in passing the various measures has been a core principle of the council since 1986. This appears no longer to be true based upon the adoption of the FY 2012-13 budget and the Baseline Before Settlement Expenditures distributed as a part of the package presented to the public on Sept. 27.
Together, the two budgets include immediate and long-term cuts to various voter-approved funds. The immediate cuts are described as a 10 percent reduction in Tourism, Transit, and Housing with restoration of up to 5 percent depending on TOT collections.
The five-year projection includes an 18 percent diversion of Measure T (Transit) funds to the General Fund and a 58 percent diversion of Measure 2002A (Housing) funds to the General Fund.
There was no specific presentation of this change in town policy in conjunction with either the current fiscal year budget or the baseline budget projections.
It appears that you have already decided by year five to take roughly $700,000 of funds approved by the voters for transit and housing and re-direct them to other uses.
This diversion of voter approved funds to purposes other than those intended by the voters should have been publicly vetted. Instead, it was embedded in a series of spreadsheets and described as a baseline budget.
Given the importance that both the council and the public have placed on maintaining the intent of the voter-approved measures, I am disappointed that these decisions did not get more specific mention.
I believe that it was inappropriate to reallocate this money without first engaging the public. As a part of your current discussions on settling the judgment, please schedule a public discussion on your planned direction for use of the voter-approved funds.
The council owes the public a detailed explanation of why it is deviating from its prior commitments. If there is an emergency requiring temporary use of the funds for other purposes, that need and priority should be fully vetted in a public forum along with a timeline for restoring the funds to their original purposes.
Any future revenue above the baseline should be used to fund that restoration before being used elsewhere. If the funding is no longer needed for the purposes for which it was approved, then the tax(es) should be repealed, not simply dumped into the general fund.
Related to this, there is a question regarding the amount of budget reductions that the council is seeking. In the budget adopted in June, there was $550,000 available for paying the judgment.
The judgment calls for $2 million per year. This leaves a gap of $1.45 million per year, not $2 million. What happened to the $550,000?
Thank you for your time and I look forward to the discussion.