What if we drew up a budget and no one came?
Apparently, we pass it. At least, that’s what happens in the Town of Colonie, where the 2013 budget was reviewed and passed with nary a peep from residents during a mandatory public hearing.
The budget tends to be a fairly hot topic, seeing as it is directly linked to property taxes, so we were a tad surprised when not a soul took advantage of the public hearing. Usually, there are a least a few watchdogs who are all too happy to let elected officials know their thoughts.
Then again, perhaps it’s not so surprising. We are among the first to advocate for strong and full public debate of any issue, but we’ll also admit there’s not much to get up in arms about in the Colonie budget. It raises taxes by a modest amount, largely holds the line on spending and does not make any major cuts to programming. In a year in which county government is again playing with a double-digit tax hike and neighboring municipalities are trimming services, Colonie’s budget just doesn’t make you want to get up, leave the dinner table and march on Town Hall.
That’s especially true in the Town of Colonie, where attendees might get the impression they unwittingly stepped into the second act of a play. That’s because in Colonie every meeting of the Town Board is preceded by an “agenda review session” that takes place in a separate meeting room in the upstairs of Town Hall. It is there the members of the Town Board — sitting around a table, not facing the public — will talk over town business. The actual meeting that follows an hour later downstairs is oftentimes a simple reading of resolutions and roll call votes, with explanations rarely offered.