First has to be the school budget. We are spending millions to make sure that the first grader in Hawes studies the same thing as the first grader at Ridge. This is a huge waste of money. Let the schools run themselves with minimal oversight from BOE. By Jr. High they will have learned enough of the same things. BOE also drives lots of absences by teachers for development days and assessment of students. Cut it. Stop paying subs for those days and let the teachers teach. We also may need to look long and hard at what we are paying in insurance and coaches for certain expensive sports like football and swimming. We may not be able to offer the same sports and clubs we once did.
Second, we have way too much empty commercial space. Currently landlords are happy to leave the buildings empty and collect the rent from the failed business while paying lower taxes on the lower valued building. That has to change. We need to find ways to create incentives to encourage landlord to take new tenants. With more and more people working remotely, it would seem like some office space in town might help. (Im not sure how the shared office place is doing??) A program to reinvigorate the office space that exists above retail in town might help. At minimum, reduced construction permits and fast tracked inspections and approvals would help. Same for the empty space on Dayton. If those spaces are filled, the assessments rise and we would collect more in RE taxes.
Finally, there is the huge nut of police and fire budget. These should be shared services. We do not need 35 cops in town plus parking enforcement. Fire Department is great but when you factor in equipment, insurance and pensions its really expensive. Something’s got to give. There has been talk of including pension obligations when we talk about salaries but that has not happened. It has to. Each cop costs us millions in total obligations.