It was about this time last year when the school budget as proposed by the Board of Education was coming under scrutiny by the town administration, the council and parents alike for all the cuts and changes being proposed. For the first time in quite a while I saw many parents getting engaged and into the budget details, attending meetings, holding their own discussion groups with one another, and trying to raise additional awareness via email and Facebook.
Time passed, input was heard, decisions were made, some decisions were amended, people adjusted and things settled into the new fiscal year.
It was around that time that I watched conversations drop off online on Facebook which had over 800 members of which a good 50 were active daily.
I had made some comments there and in a prior “From Wallingford” piece about the need to stay engaged throughout if possible or at the minimum to pick back up when budget work began again. I am hopeful that some of those parents have been able to stay engaged and offer their input as it has never been more important. In times like these where budgets are tighter than ever, there has never been a time that it has been more important to be engaged with your local school board and with your local government.
There are pundits who will say “people have their chance to voice their concerns with their vote at election time” and I agree with that sentiment — but it is only a start.
You vote someone into office based on their character, their campaign, how well you know them and on how well they present themselves. No one can run a campaign knowing all that will come down the road. They can only run it based on how they assume they’d respond if certain situations come to pass. I don’t recall anyone running two years ago and indicating how they’d vote on cutting EMT services in the town if that decision needed to be made simply because few could predict we’d actual be in a place where we’d have to do that.
Voting at election time is not the end result of your involvement, it is the start.
The grand list is not expected to grow. Revaluations have been completed and how the disparity falls between residential, commercial and industrial remains to be seen. Everyone will be paying more but how much more and who pays the most remain to be seen.
More of the nice things to have will be cut from the budget; this is simply a given when you look at the critical services that are being scaled back like EMT coverage. The only thing that can be done to save these things that you like or want to have is to raise funds for them and keep them alive through public support like what was done last year with the efforts to save the fireworks display on July 4th.
There is talk from some residents who would like to see a playscape at Kendrick Park. There, too, just like Doolittle, if parents and neighbors feel it is something they want to see come to fruition they are going to have to solicit and fundraise and put some sweat equity in because there is no money in the budget for it.
It starts and ends with “the people,” in all cases. People’s desire to see something done, changed, or continued is based on your input and your level of influence and it has never been more badly needed than now.
2011 is a local election year; elections are in November but the time to get engaged is now.
It’s your town – get informed and get involved.