Editor's note: This article was originally intended to run Monday morning. As you might have noticed, our Monday morning plans got sidetracked by a Sunday night announcement. So, we have brought you Mr. Berman's first column today.
Strewn across the kitchen table this pleasant Sunday morning are my copy of the proposed Town of Reading FY 2012 budget, and my 4th quarter real estate tax bill.
Coincidentally, both need to be taken care of tomorrow. As I ponder both, a quick calculation reveals I pay roughly $20 a day for services rendered. Like any value-conscious consumer, I weigh what my family receives for the money. As the roster grows, my trepidation about writing the check wanes. I share with you my personal list.
- In June my son will graduate from a beautifully renovated elementary school that once housed leaky, portable classrooms. He will move on to a beautiful middle school and then a jewel of a high school, the envy of any town.
- Every Tuesday morning someone arrives and picks up my trash. While we may take this for granted, other towns charge extra for this service or don’t provide it at all.
- Paramedics armed with advanced life support equipment, administered early critical life saving care to my mother-in-law when she had a stroke while living with us. I shudder to think what may have happened if we didn’t invest in the equipment or the training.
- Books, CD’s, museum passes, concerts, lap sits, school projects, author visits and other cultural events we have partaken in hundreds of visits to the library. You will be further impressed when you seen the plans for the exciting library expansion.
- While I do not qualify as yet, one day I hope to share in a meal and a conversation at the Senior Center, as many of my neighbors do currently.
- We have enjoyed tennis lessons, hikes, strolls, picnics, evening concerts, tee ball, basketball, soccer, and winter skates, in the parks, fields and trails run by the Recreation Department.
A smile crosses my face when I realize we get all this for the cost of a couple of lattes, a scratch ticket or two, and the unused portion of my gym membership. But, before I get too giddy, I think of the many families in town struggling to make ends meet during these hard times. To them (and all us), we owe the responsibility of ensuring every dollar raised is spent prudently, that every effort is made to stay within our means, and a process that is transparent and open.
Like all of us, the town has had to make do on less these last few years. I remain confident that as a community we will get through these challenging times because the hard decisions will be made not by faceless, nameless bureaucrats, but by the people I see in synagogue, at the baseball field, and in the coffee shops. I trust my neighbors to make the right choices about the level of services we want to maintain in Reading. No one wants to pay more than we have to, but pay we must for the things we hold dear. As Town Meeting convenes Monday night to deliberate the budget, I am hopeful each member will recall their own list, remember what drew them originally to Reading, and what keeps them participating in the active fabric of our town.
My check is in the mail.