Town Meeting Reflects Community Values
By CAROL GRAY
Sunday December 10, 2017, Amherst Bulletin, Letter to the Editor
Amherst voters will be asked next March to vote on whether to eliminate our 258-year-old Town Meeting and Select Board form of government, instead collapsing the two bodies into one 13-member Town Council.
Here is one example of how Town Meeting makes a difference in our community by means of the budget. In spring 2016, we saw how Town Meeting is important as part of checks and balances. When the school budget was presented to Town Meeting, it included a cut of $30,000, eliminating library aides at the three elementary schools. This budget proposal had already been endorsed by the School Committee, the Select Board and the Finance Committee.
Town Meeting saw things differently. Many Town Meeting members are parents of young children (myself included) and we know how important the school libraries are for our children. One Town Meeting member made a motion to put the $30,000 back into the budget so those library aides could keep their full-time jobs. Other Town Meeting members offered their views, most supporting putting back the $30,000. One 9-year-old told Town Meeting how those library aides encouraged children to love to read. Town Meeting voted overwhelmingly to put that $30,000 back into the budget.
This was a great decision for our children and turned out to be an excellent financial decision as well since at the end of that fiscal year, there was $1.3 million left over from that same budget.
Kudos to Town Meeting for representing our community values so well.