Inside Stories

InsideDracut: New Taxes Drumbeat Grows Louder

In the not-too-distant past Town Manager and elected officials were shouting their praises about how the town is in GREAT shape.

Selectwoman Alison Genest sought reelection this past May on the platform that the town is heading in the right direction, everything in Dracut was great!  She even had her husband Brian Genest, the novice political hit piece writer for the Valley Patriot, touting in an op-ed the “everything in Dracut is in great” political pablum, all while he was belittling any possible challengers to her reelection.  Politics as usual in Dracut.

Not two weeks after the election, that tune abruptly changed.

Now comes news of serious budget shortfalls.  The sky is falling!  The Sky is falling in Dracut!

Selectperson and Chair Alison Genest had to know that budget troubles were on the horizon.  If she didn’t, she should have.  If she was remotely aware of the impending budget collapse but ignored it just to get reelected, she should hang her head in shame and never get elected again!

The past two years, Dracut has received a windfall of federal funds as a result of Covid lockdowns to the tune of nearly 15 million dollars.  COVID relief funding was to be used for COVID related town improvements. The relief money was allegedly earmarked for many different things, including retrofitting public buildings with air purifiers, the hiring of public safety & school personnel, as well as purchasing health related equipment.  The extra federal dollars intoxicated those in charge, allowing them to spend beyond our means.  As a result, much of the spending will need to be maintained in future town budgets.  Anyone could see that this crazy spending would not be sustainable.

At one point, as a result of COVID and less spending during 18-months of lockdowns, Dracut saw its surplus balloon to over $12 million. That surplus, known as free cash, has historically been reserved to help the town get through tough budget times, the so-called rainy days.

But town manager Ann Vandal and her administration are spending like drunken sailors returning after a long stint at sea.  Creating new town positions, hiring new personnel to fill those positions and handing out pay raises to favored personal that will put added stress on an already loaded budget, making future budgets unsustainable at current revenue levels.

It is speculated that Vandal and other political leaders are trying to correct years of neglect to town owned equipment and buildings, playing “catch up” on preventative maintenance to the town’s infrastructure.

Savvy finance experts believe that future costs of maintaining new positions with added salary increases and outlandish purchases are now coming home to roost!  Future budget woes are a foregone conclusion.  As one example, have you noticed how many department heads are now driving around town in sparkling new town owned vehicles?  Many department heads don’t even live in Dracut!  Are they allowed to take them home after work? Are there restrictions on the use of these vehicles?

All this spending has been obviously more than just Covid related and is depleting the once over $12 million free cash safety net that has now shrunk to less than $6 million.

Now Dracut Town manager Ann Vandal is loudly beating the drums of a financial disaster!  She is claiming that the town is in serious need of new tax revenue! Music to the ears of town progressives.

Town Manager Vandal is lamenting that the upcoming FY25 municipal budget will have a shortfall of not less than $2 million and could be higher!  Vandal’s troubling messaging of impending budget doom is making taxpayers very nervous.

But Vandal is not beating the drums alone.

In a follow up article coming next week, I’ll fill you in on who else is playing the fiscal crisis tune, as well as those who refuse to dance to the same beat.

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