Search This Blog

Friday, January 15, 2010

FROM WALLINGFORD - School budget: the wrong approach


The Superintendent and the Board of Education are proposing, in concert with the principals, to reconfigure the eight elementary schools into K-2 and 3-5 sister schools as part of the recent budget proposal.

Municipal budgets are generally based on the premise that there are unlimited resources because there is the ability to just up taxes or levy fees on a captive audience - the Wallingford business owners and the Wallingford home owners.

We can't afford to do that anymore.

Any available reserves that the town might have in the "rainy day fund" the Mayor will not leverage, for better or for worse. One could certainly argue that if it is not raining now, when is it ever?

The cost to continue business as usual at the present level of services for the school district was going to increase the budget request by about 10 percent. Historically, whatever the Board of Education asked for was effectively reduced by about half by the Council and / or the Mayor. That would still be nearly 5 percent more.

I don't believe anyone is interested in paying more taxes, especially not on the order of 5 percent, never mind 10. There will be some level of increase in our taxes - I am hoping we can minimize that increase. There is going to be some job loss - I hope that can be minimized as well. I am hoping we can stretch and find ways to NOT lose the service level for the kids with all this occurring.

I've talked to a lot of people, some parents, some teachers, and some people who don't even have kids. Most agreed that something has to be done. A lot of them can see the argument for the case being presented by the Superintendent; it was the delivery of the messaging that put many of them on the defensive.

I would hate to have found out in the newspaper that my company was restructuring and letting people go. I would like to have been notified ahead of time.

I would like to have been a part of the proposed solution by being asked for input or perhaps in helping to find ways to contribute to cutting other costs in an effort to save some jobs.

As a parent I would like to have known this was coming. I'm pretty tuned in - more than most. It's always possible I missed the announcement of meetings for input but knowing that the teachers were blindsided makes me think otherwise.

I agree with the argument that we elect our officials to represent us but I think it would have been better to include the citizens on the plans as they were being developed and solicited some input from them regardless of that supposed representation. Asking for input during the budget presentation of a fully-baked proposal almost seems futile; I find it hard to believe that anyone is accepting input and making changes now.

To me, the budget and proposal are being presented more in the fashion of "here's what we're going to do" rather than "here's our plan - what do you think."

I'll paraphrase Steve Knight from last week - there are always opportunities to build transparency and cooperation between the branches of town government, between the Mayor's Office, the Town Council and the Board of Education.

I want to know where the transparency and cooperation between the government and its people was.

Where was the call for input ahead of time for this budget proposal from those that would be affected the most - the teachers, the parents, and by proxy the students?

It seems to me that we're being told what we need rather than asked what we want.

That is not a government of the people, by the people and for the people, as far as I am concerned.

No comments:

Post a Comment