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Time to talk tough about overrides

January 11, 2012

School officials met last night to talk about preliminary ideas for personnel and expense reductions that would occur if a Proposition 2.5 tax override does not pass in June.

As of right now, without the override, the schools would cut several classroom teachers and would also implement significant reductions in athletics. The worst-case scenario seems to be that some entire sports teams might get the ax in order to save some teachers. They are also talking about fee increases totaling almost $50,000 (here we go again!), and reductions in school buses.

Is this all scare tactics to get people to support the override? I don’t know. Perhaps. But the school budget really is very tight. The reality is that underfunded mandates and collective bargaining agreements are severely hurting our schools. There are ways to change both of those problems, of course, but that’s all set by the state.

Special Education mandates consume almost $10 million of the School Department’s $40 million budget – it’s about 1/4. If the schools try to cut any of that significantly, they get sued. Our state and federal legislators imposed a tangle of mandates that our schools must provide SpEd services to their students, but yet were unwilling to find ways to pay for it so they passed it on to local decision makers to figure that out. Is it the responsibility of local property taxpayers to pay for something the state and federal government should be paying for? No, and that’s a good reason to vote against the override.

There are millions of dollars in potential savings on the municipal side of the budget, and not so much in the schools. I support taking some money from municipal budget savings and giving it to the schools in the form of a bailout. It’s all taxpayer money after all, and it will help avoid a tax increase. Will it disrupt the 2/3 split between municipal and schools? Yes, but I’d prefer that over seeking more revenue.

180 will have continuing coverage of the school override from now until June, along with relentless coverage of the proposal to put a municipal override on the ballot. 180 will directly propose ideas for cuts, reductions, cost-savings, and efficiencies across the entire town and school budget, and will ask the tough questions that the taxpayers want to know the answers to.

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