There was a petition handed into the town hall on Tuesday asking that the town residents be allowed to vote on this year’s budget. This is our charter outlined process and an all-day, in-person referendum on June 9th is the only way citizens can change the adopted budget.
I, for one, fully supported the petition. It allows all residents the ability to vote what they feel is right for themselves during these uncertain times. There is misinformation already out there that I would like to address.
I heard that the referendum was said to cost $50,000.00. The town sets aside, year after year, about $13,000.00 to cover the cost of a potential referendum. The unused money is moved to the town’s undesignated fund. We have not had a referendum for approximately 11 years, so we have already paid several times over for a special election, even if it were to cost $50,000.00.
Another comment, which is also misleading, was the school committee is giving the town their savings stemming from the COVID 19 pandemic this year. What was proposed, and later approved by the town council and the school committee, was the school committee was going to give the town their $1.4 million in COVID 19 savings and in turn the town would give the school committee their requested increase. The same amount moves back and forth. So why was this done? What this does is gives the school system a higher budget figure to start with next year. In the approved budget arrangement, the taxpayers will end up paying more. If the school committee were to keep their savings and not transfer it to the town, the school budget will start 2 % lower next year. In either scenario, the kids are fully funded. So my feeling is let the schools keep their savings and allow the taxpayer to save money.
Another concern was that the school committee doesn’t know what to expect this upcoming year. I’m assuming they are talking about whether the schools will be on line again or children are going back to classrooms. If the schools open, then the budget is already covering the costs of education. If they remain closed and on line schooling takes place again, then the schools will see comparable savings as they are seeing now. The total savings at this point is up from $1.4 million to $2 million.
In my opinion let’s keep the deal simple AND straightforward. This isn’t some multi-billion dollar acquisition deal where giving money back and forth is done for tax purposes. This petition is not a cut to anything, the petition is just to tell the School Committee that they need to use their savings for their budget and to reduce the burden to the taxpayers during this uncertain economic time.