Dear Neighbor

The Referendum on July 14th has been long in the making. For as long as I remember, the people in South Kingstown have always supported our schools. Even the reductions we will consider still represent spending increases, just not as high as have been asked. Through several meetings, both virtual and in real life, many have asked for a little relief. Not cuts, just a little breathing room. After all, the town has been exceedingly generous to our school district. This was not a big ask.

And yet they responded in ways that only serve to divide the town even more than they did during the 2018 election. Lies and confusion do not help South Kingstown. Did they purposefully do this? It is hard to say, but it has become frustrating to watch.

On one side, there is the argument to reduce the budgets. The town submitted a budget that raises municipal spending by 5% and per pupil spending by a comparable amount. Given the already expensive price tags, a moderate reduction to that growth would be well received by a community that has been hammered by an awful pandemic. That message has been consistent and is reasonable.

On the flip side, the argument is all over the place. First, they said the budget would decimate the schools. Then the Town Manager, while arguing for the spending hikes, said the Referendum would have no impact on operations. When pressed, the Superintendent agreed that no major disruptions would need to happen. Despite those messages, the Committee and Council were asked to hold a work session to “clarify” what the referendum might mean. More obscurity followed, and many have regressed to their doomsday arguments. The dreaded “cut list” of what might go away is being posted all over social media. One candidate even likened the Referendum to a $10,000 household pay cut. Their messages are inconsistent and unsubstantiated. They keep going to the same well, stoking fear and attacking anyone who speaks up.

It is those efforts…the lies, distortions, and personal attacks have become so difficult to let slide. The special interests are jumping in to protect their own budgetary turf at a time when South Kingstown is hurting. At $23,000 per student, I already knew it was time to start rethinking this. When the pandemic and the lockdowns hit us, it became even more important to reconsider. The final straw came with the lies and confusion.

On July 14th, there is no other choice. We need to vote to approve the reductions.

Please feel free to share this post.

Greg Sweet

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