from Patch: City Owes Residents Details Behind Dire Budget Projections
Trust but verify shouldn't be so hard
By Jim Atkinson, Patch Poster | Jan 16, 2019 1:08 pm ET | Updated Jan 16, 2019 4:11 pm ET
Last week during the school committee meeting, the superintendent provided her first picture of what the 2020 school budget would look like with and without an override. I would like to add some context to these numbers. Over the past 5 years, the average school budgeted year over year increase has been 4.5% (3.8%, 3.5%, 2.8%, 8.1% and 4.2% from 2015 through 2019). Now, faced with an override on the ballot and a story to sell, we are told the 2020 budget will be a reduction of 1.4% from 2019. This is both laughable and predictable.
The reduction stems from two parts. First, suddenly the city can only provide a 2% increase to the schools despite managing to provide an over 3% average increase over the past three years. Second, it assumes a drastic reduction in School sourced revenues going from $4.9M to $3.9M. I have asked Superintendent Taymore and Business Manager Farrell for a simple itemization of this reduction twice so far without acknowledgement of my request. (Please note since my original post Ms. Farrell responded that such itemization did not yet exist.)
Over the next two months the proponents of the override will attempt to simply make their case based on these two scenarios. They are counting on you to take the doomsday scenario as gospel, but you owe it to yourself to dig in a little deeper and validate those numbers.
Ask how many negative assumptions are baked into these School and City figures and whether they make sense? Ask why there has never been an open Q&A with the Administration on either this or the last override? Ask why all we ever see from the city is stale Budget data, and not an up to date trend with Actuals, even when requested? Ask why they can explain what free cash is at a high level, but you have to dig it out of meeting docs to get the amounts? In short, all you're really asking to do is cut the cards, and I think for $550+ a year for life for you and your neighbors that's a reasonable request.
They don't have a clear and convincing argument because they cherry pick so-called "facts" with no regard for actual facts.