Letter: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’

  I keep reading all the stories and letters about the mayoral challengers and their calls for “change,” but I keep coming back to the same question:  What is the problem you’re trying to solve?

I don’t believe in change just for change’s sake.  Yet, all I hear are vague promises about how we can do better.  It seems to me that a pretty good balance has already been struck in Shelton.

Crime is kept relatively low by our police.  Our combination of paid and volunteer fire and EMS seems to have things covered.  Our roads are kept in pretty good repair and kept clear in winter.  Our sanitation schedule seems to work and we have a healthy recycling program.  And we have modern, well-staffed schools to which we already allot the majority of our budget.

All of this is maintained while keeping taxes and debt low.  Sure, we can always do better in any of these areas, but on the whole I think the current administration has done a good job balancing cost of living with quality of life.

This is also the first time I’ve ever seen anyone complain about a government running a surplus.  Usually, governments spend every dime as fast as they can get it and keep coming back for more.  What’s wrong with the town maintaining a rainy-day reserve?  Anyone who’s ever managed a budget knows you can’t – and shouldn’t try to – respond to every mood swing in the market that affects your costs.  Instead you should keep a buffer so you’re not always in react mode.

Understanding this and planning sensibly is not irresponsibility in my mind.  It’s wisdom and experience.

No, the calls for change seem to really be more about education funding.  The pressure is on to satisfy the insatiable appetite of school budgets.  This is driven by “mission creep,” where some expect schools to provide things well beyond the scope of education.  I hope taxpayers have the fortitude and good sense to resist.  If you hang a sign around your neck saying “Will pay anything for schooling,” you’ll be swarmed by education snake-oil salesmen happy to take your money.  For instance, our old district invested heavily in smart boards for the classrooms; most of them are used as coat racks now.

We moved from Westchester County in New York several years ago.  There, school districts are independent of local governments.  This means a critical check-and-balance is missing and school spending has run amok.  Bloated administrations and staff, huge salaries and benefits and misguided expenditures on expensive technologies have ballooned the budgets.  The result:  the highest taxes in the country have people fleeing the state, so much so that New York actually lost representation in Congress.

I’m not against change.  Change can be good and necessary.        But this seems to be one instance in which the old farmers’ adage applies:  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

William O’Leary