Our Opinion: Investing in our future

Throughout its history, Manchester has been fortunate to have had generous benefactors — business owners and families who saw the value in sharing their good fortune, and taxpayers who dipped into their pockets to support important projects and improvements.

It's not just civic pride at work. When a community chooses to invest in itself and its quality of life, it shows — not just along the streetscape, but in the way its residents take pride in their town center and neighborhoods.

With that in mind, consider two items on Manchester's 2018 town meeting warning: The Manchester Business Association's request for $50,000 in matching funds for its marketing activities, to be decided on the town meeting floor Saturday; and the Manchester Community Library's request for $232,773 to defray one-third of its operating expenses, to be voted on Tuesday by Australian ballot. We support yes votes on both questions, as we see the value in the investment.

Let's start with MBA and its request for matching funds. We think there is a legitimate case for providing MBA with a relatively small measure of support from local option tax revenues — notably, not property tax revenues — until the group can solidify its own funding stream from grants, membership dues and private funding.

As of next month, it will have been two years since the Manchester and the Mountains Chamber of Commerce dissolved, leaving a local economy greatly reliant upon tourism without a dedicated marketing and promotion organization. As you might recall, the Chamber's absence immediately left gaps in organizing and running several prominent events and services. It's worth noting that the group that became the MBA stepped up to help keep those small setbacks from escalating.

In the past year, the MBA has grown from idea to nonprofit, and it has taken the marketing business plan previously assembled by the Manchester Marketing Initiative and run with it. A great many volunteer hours have been spent by the group to raise Manchester's profile, and thus far the evidence suggests it's making a positive difference. The matching funds the group is seeking will help it continue to grow, as well as make a $20,000 donation to ITVFest.

Some would say it's private enterprise's responsibility to take care of its own house. Others would point out that the public good is well served by using public dollars to promote legitimate economic development. There's validity in both arguments. But either way, the reality is this: In the long run, the cost of not promoting Manchester would prove far greater than $50,000.

As for the library: Last year, we supported a "yes" vote for its funding request, and we only see reasons to reaffirm that support. Literacy, education and cultural enrichment are not optional to our community's quality of life; they are essential elements, well worth the investment. The library supports all three, and does so brilliantly.

The library offers diverse programming, computer services and a meeting place for adults and children as well as books, music, movies and other traditional library offerings. Membership is free to Manchester residents. And it has reduced the percentage of its reliance upon town funding for its operating budget to 31 percent this coming year, continuing a positive trend toward its own financial independence.

If the library and the other voter appropriations on the town meeting warning all pass, the impact works out to $58 for the year for the owners of a property assessed at the median home price of $271,900. You might pay more than that every month for your phone, or your cable TV service. But you won't get more.


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