URGENT MESSAGE about 5/14 Town Council/School Committee meeting

From Rebecca Bliss and others:

URGENT: please read, and share. And please get involved! Should the schools again be level-funded, our children, schools, town reputation, and property values will suffer.

This Monday, 5/14, there is a joint Town Council/School Committee meeting at 7 pm, at Swift Gym. This is the time for taxpayers to weigh in on the proposed budget. And your input is critical.

Note the following:
  • Last year the TC technically level-funded the schools, but they at least took some expenses off of EGSD’s books to free up some resources. This year, Corrigan’s budget puts all of those expenses back to EGSD, and the proposed “increase” is only enough to pay for them. This is called maintenance of effort (the legal minimum) – and it is a literal level fund during a time of increased expenses due to state mandates, contractual obligations, increasing enrollment, and significant school facility needs. This means that the schools will get less than before, while costs will go up.
  • Except for $100,000 set aside for school safety, ALL of the additional revenue Corrigan proposes to raise would go to the town.
  • I’m told the town has approximately $18-$19 million in reserves, and about $6.1 of that is “available” (meaning, can be used without jeopardizing a required threshold).
  • EGSD can only withdraw very minimal funds from reserves at this point. The schools’ rainy day fund has been rapidly depleting in order to close operational gaps, and they must be able to maintain some minimal reserves at the very least for emergencies and unanticipated expenses since they can’t rely on being able to get supplemental appropriations from the town.
  • The bottom line is that the proposed budget gives the SC $860,558 less than they asked for. Some people (the TC majority among them) think this is a good idea because of the perception of tax relief. Many of us would argue that it’s penny wise and pound foolish to adopt a budget that will further damage the quality of the school system for a very small reduction in the median tax bill. (4 100ths of one percent of your property value).
  • In order to not lose accreditation, a high school librarian will likely be hired (yes, this is a good thing). But if this proposed budget is passed, the school funding situation will be even worse than last year. Which means even deeper cuts. The district has very limited options, so anything that is not contractually required, or required by the state to meet RI’s Basic Education Program is at risk. This means staff (teachers/librarians/coaches/PARAs). Athletics. Music, theater, arts. Academic programs (we all recall that French was almost cut last year). Field trips.Technology. Any and all extras.
  • Essentially, TC and Corrigan are enacting an agenda that is almost viciously anti-union to score political points. In doing so they’ve upended the town budget, eviscerated the fire department, and defunded the schools so much we’ve lost programs and credibility. In no way does this help our attractiveness as a town or our property values. Costs go up – for salaries, operations, benefits, and capital expenses – that’s a rule, not an exception. For any municipality to deny this, cast blame on honest departments, and cut funding, *all during a period of relative economic growth* signifies bad-faith motives.

Please don’t stand on the sidelines and hope that others will fight this battle for our children. This isn’t a partisan issue, this is about investing in the future: of our kids, of our town’s reputation, and quite frankly, of our property values. What sort of value proposition does this budget convey?

Consider asking these questions:
  • Where does the TC think the schools are wasting money?
  • How has this tax cut benefited the town and/or the schools?
  • Do they think EG is still viewed as a desirable community, given the well-publicized lawsuits, school funding issues, TM issues (and her apparent obsession with the fire dept)?
  • Why are meal taxes going down?
  • Why not use town reserves for one-time capital expenses, freeing up $1million for the operational needs of the schools?
  • Why are tax transfer stamps going down?
  • Has the town ever thought of creating revenue like the schools (events, ads, field rentals)?
  • Why are rec/ community salaries increasing yet there is no corresponding growth in revenue from those areas? The schools created a volunteer ad hoc for revenue, yet won’t hire someone to do it until they can pay for it themselves.
  • Where are Corrigan’s “cost savings”? Given higher home evaluations and a healthy economy, how we could possibly be squeezing the school system like this?
  • Budgets are moral documents. What does this budget say about the TC and Corrigan?

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