Q&A Interview With Brooks Lyman, Candidate For Select Board
Groton Herald: Why are you running for Select Board?
Brooks Lyman: To be a voice for fiscal responsibility and common sense. To support the town’s truly essential departments: Fire Department, Police Department, Public Works Department, which have been the victims of short-sighted fiscal and personnel policies dictated by the select board in the past.
Groton Herald: Starting next year Select Board, FinCom and Sustainability Commission have predicted the need for a series of rolling overrides to fund town government at current levels. What would you do, if anything, to respond the need for these projected overrides?
Brooks Lyman: Since most of the Town’s expenses are personnel-related, salaries, benefits, retirement and since these expenses, even if Town employee numbers remain the same, increase every year, we need to look at the very real question of whether we need and can afford all of our current Town Employees.
The Groton-Dunstable Regional School District is the largest item on the budget, and their requirements seem to increase at a greater rate than those of the town. We can argue with them, but we shouldn’t expect to get large concessions from GDRSD, if only because they have to meet many (expensive) state mandates.
While Prop. 2-1/2 overrides may be necessary, they are a less than desirable solution, as the tax increase thus gained is permanent unless the Town later passes an underride which I do not believe we have ever done in Groton. If there are other solutions to this problem, we should investigate them.
Groton Herald: Are there any cost saving areas that you see which could minimize the need for tax increases?
Brooks Lyman: The largest items on the Town budget are personnel-related; any significant cuts will probably have to be made there. Not to be negative, but if we cannot make those cuts, then we will just have to resign ourselves to the fact that operating a town of Groton’s size, demographics and business-to-residential ratio takes a certain minimum amount of money. Volunteerism, while certainly alive and well in some areas, has its limitations in today’s statutory and liability climate, and is probably not a practical source of relief for high taxes.
Groton Herald: Would you support any proposal to reduce the three percent CPA surtax which has the potential to mitigate increases in individual tax bills?
Brooks Lyman: No. Most of the projects for which CPA funds are used could also be funded from the Town budget, and probably would be. Thus overall spending would probably remain about the same. But projects funded from the Town Budget do not get any matching funds from the State, and special grants from the State are few and far between. So, reducing or eliminating the CPA surtax would probably have little if any effect on Town spending and a negative effect on many worthwhile projects in Groton.
Groton Herald: Would you support any proposal to sell some land at the country club to bring in additional revenue?
Brooks Lyman: Only if it were for the building of subsidized low-income and affordable housing. We have enough mini-mansions in Groton. Building low-income and affordable housing helps to keep unwanted 40-B projects off our backs.
Groton Herald: Would you support any proposal to outsource some functions at the Country Club to create some savings in the town’s operating budget? Please discuss and explain.
Brooks Lyman: The Town currently supports various playing fields as part of Groton’s recreation programs. The same argument (outsourcing) could be made about those playing fields. We should accept the fact that the Country Club is part of Groton’s recreation infrastructure. That said, yes, I would certainly listen to any sensible proposal with regard to Country Club functions, though I am not inclined favorably toward the idea of outsourcing at present.
Groton Herald: There is a proposal before Spring Town Meeting proposing a local tax on the sale of tickets for entertainment performances in town. Do you support this initiative? Please explain why or why not.
Brooks Lyman: It has been pointed out that this is a tax on the activities of a non-profit organization, that would have to be approved by the State Legislature, which will not approve such a tax. In addition, despite denials, it is obvious that this tax is aimed specifically at Indian Hill Music. This tax proposal is a bad idea and I cannot support it.
Groton Herald: What issues would you like to address in the next three years if elected?
Brooks Lyman: I have no specific crusades I wish to undertake as a Select Board Member. I have written of my objection to a ban on plastic bags/cups/straws in Groton. While I do not think this is a good idea at all, if we must have such a ban, then it ought to be state-wide, not each town going its own way. If the issue arises in the Select Board, I will oppose it. This seems to me to be commonsensical, which is the approach I would take on issues coming before the Board.