2016-09-22 / Neighbors

Councilors report a busy summer to set up for fall action

D-Money (Ward 1 Councilor Dave Precourt) and B-Quiet (Ward 4 Councilor Kevin Roche) are back from our summer writing hiatus. We were busy with our Summer Olympic duties, with Dave coaching the women gymnasts to the gold, while Kevin served as the designated driver for the men’s swim team. To perhaps the disappointment of many, both of us got back with our passports intact.

Seriously, it was a busy summer in the city council with a host of issues being decided on to start the fall. The council was tasked with reviewing the school board recommendation for the new, stand-alone Young School at its current site, as our top city council goal of 2016 to “advocate a successful bond approval for the replacement of Young School by November.” However, it was recently announced that the application process for state funding for school construction begins this October and ends in April 2017. A prioritized list could be finalized as soon as January 2018. The council decided to vote against sending the bond to voters for approval this November, and to wait for a state decision on Saco school funding. In the meantime, the school administration is tasked with applying for this funding with as much input as our community can and wants to provide.

It is also our city administrator’s (Kevin Sutherland) one-year mark on the job this month. As always stated, we don’t speak for the entire council, but we were very happy with Kevin overall, with his presence in the community and making himself available to the public and city officials at all times. We also were very impressed with Kevin’s city website budget calculator, where any resident could plug in or cut a proposed budget item and see what the tax effect on the mil rate would be. And we were able to keep the city tax increase to effectively zero, a credit to our city administrator and pressures from all sides, being new to the job.

As we start our second year, we would like to see more communication from the city on news and events that occur outside of council meetings. Too many times, councilors are taken by surprise by events that are of high interest to the community. The more communication, the better. Also, in Saco government, the city administrator is responsible to the city council and mayor, and is entrusted to implement what the council decides and pass on our council goals to relevant department heads. Councilors should not have to constantly follow up on our votes or council requests. We do have day jobs to report to … or rumored day jobs, as our spouses term it.

Finally, a note on taxes and city finances in general. We both are business owners in the community, but don’t pretend to assume that everything in business can apply to making government run efficiently. However, we do know that if we don’t have a clear handle on city revenue, capital, investments and debt service, which all can serve to decrease the burden on the taxpayer, we will continue to work from behind. So any added or even maintained expenses to this city need to show results in lower taxes or the highest quality of services, and we look forward to reporting positive news back to you as we go through this fiscal year.

Have a great fall and start of the school year.

Dave Precourt and Kevin Roche are members of the Saco City Council and write a monthly column on city happenings.

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