I read today's letter to the editor from Councilwoman Susan Poage regarding her reasons for voting "no" on the town's 2018 budget. As I attend most meetings of our Township Council, including the one on May 8, I want the public to be aware of some facts that are not contained in Mrs. Poage's letter.
The 2018 Budget development process included public meetings on Feb. 26, March 5 and April 2. At those meetings various aspects of the Budget were reviewed and Council members, the Mayor and the public all had the opportunity to voice their concerns or provide suggestions as to what the 2018 spending plan should contain (or not contain). Finally on April 10, the Council, including Mrs. Poage, unanimously voted to adopt the 2018 Budget and scheduled it for public hearing and final adoption on May 8. There was one additional Council meeting held on April 17. At not one of these meetings did Mrs. Poage ever express her opposition to what was being proposed, and as noted above, she voted to adopt it on April 10.
On May 8, there was an amendment to the Budget that needed to be approved by the Council. During the public hearing, I asked a question as to why the overall appropriation amount was being increased from the April 10 amount, although the amount for local taxes was unchanged. This was prior to any comment about the budget by any member of the governing body. The Town CFO provided a detailed explanation having to do with State requirements about recognition of revenues and grants. He closed his comments by indicating that all of these changes were just a wash, that is, the purpose of the budget and its impact on us taxpayers was the same as the Budget adopted on April 10.
Following the close of the public hearing, the Council was asked to vote on the Budget amendment and then the Budget itself. Mrs. Poage stated that she had just received the amendment that evening and apparently was unsure of what it represented and therefore intended to vote no. The Mayor asked if she had any questions about the amendment for the CFO and she said she did not. Since the CFO had just provided myself and the rest of the public and the Council with an explanation of the amendment, I must say I was somewhat stunned to hear her indicate her intention to vote no and even more stunned when she declined to ask the CFO or other Council members for more information about the amendment.
Mrs. Poage then voted no on the amendment and then when the amended budget was put to a vote said that since she had not time to digest the amendment she had to also vote no on the Budget itself. Her letter today provides an entirely new explanation for her reason to not support the 2018 Budget. She cites numerous things that she feels are wrong, yet not once during the development or consideration of the Budget did she ever express these sentiments. Further she stated that she had come prepared to vote no on the Budget even before seeing the amendment and had a prepared explanation for her reasons- a statement that she chose not to provide to the Council and the public.
If Mrs. Poage had reasons for voting no on the Budget, why would she not have articulated them to her fellow Council members and the Public? If she had had concerns prior to the May 8 meeting why did she not raise these concerns at prior meetings or with the town administrator and CFO? Why now are we being told of all the things that she objects to, when she never exercised the opportunity to bring these before the Council and the public during the time the budget was being developed and at the time she voted in favor of adopting it on April 10? She closes her letter by saying that it was not the amendment that caused her to vote no, despite the fact that is what she stated just prior to the Council's vote on the Budget.
I had hoped that Mrs. Poage would have clarified that her no vote was not a rejection of the Budget, but simply her concern about the amendment, even though the CFO provided a public explanation of same. Now, however, we are being told an entirely different story. Why these points were not stated in explaining her vote that evening is something I am unable to understand.