Too many unanswered questions to support override
On one hand, who could be against "the kids"? As the proponents of this vote highlight, having a well-funded school system is important to any community. As a parent of two high school students who have progressed through our city's schools, I believe strongly in education and its role in our community and society. Good schools prepare our children for the future, draw new people to our city, increase our property values, etc. Along with many others in our community, I have supported the schools through the years and have worked hard campaigning for the past two overrides (for the high school renovation and the library restoration). As a former city councilor, I have a consistent record of voting for increased funding above the minimum rate set forth by the state.
Still, the questions about the override persist. It would seem that the school department would undertake a full accounting of what its particular needs are before asking its constituents for additional funds. Has that been done? Unfortunately no. A "zero-based" budgeting process has been resisted by the department for years. So has a line by line accounting of its annual budget. Each year, a certain percentage is simply tacked on to the budget and presented to the City Council for "review" and approval. Where is the critical thinking and the process that ensures efficiency and accountability?
When one begins to question this process, they are challenged, "Are you against the kids?" Actually, being "pro-education" is having a school system that models for our young people the values associated with fiscal responsibility and spending within our means. How about teaching our students the lessons of economic cause and effect and impact of increased taxes on the life of our community? Will they be able to afford living in our neighborhoods when they become adults? What about folks with limited means now? Many are not eligible for an abatement and with the accumulative tax burden of the past overrides, CPA, water and sewer hikes and heating costs, aren't we simply forcing them out of the community?
Does the school system really need $1.58 million in new tax revenue to function? Or is it a wish list? Among the new items listed is $200,000 for 200 new computers. A trip to Compac or Sears would purchase a computer, printer and the works for less than $1,000. Are we purchasing retail?
Clearly, there are many questions to be answered. Until the leadership can provide answers, I'm with "the kids" and voting no on May 22.
JOHN F. NORRIS
(This article replicated online with permission of the Newburyport Daily News, an Eagle Tribune Newspaper.)