Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Chapter 3 of “The Government Taketh…..”

Curses, Batman!  In the process of restructuring the “Government Taketh” post prior to publishing the first two chapters, I apparently deleted all the remaining notes I had made for the rest of it.  Major bummer, I can tell you. 

All efforts to find them failed, so I began the process of reconstructing them.  And then the "proverbial” silver cloud appeared.

I came upon the Forecaster’s latest article reporting on the budget discussions last night, so now I can take that into account as well, adding to the timeliness of this post, and eliminating the need to do another.

By now, both you and I have probably forgotten the origins of this subject, and if you have, let’s face it, you have no one to blame but…ummm, uhhhhh……me.  So if you can tolerate it, you might consider going back to read the first two chapters via the link in the first paragraph above.

Before moving on, I do want to remind you that I spoke of the dangers of “revenue sharing” some months ago here.  Those dangers are now coming center stage in Brunswick, and will likely stimulate budget theatrics we haven’t seen the likes of in recent memory.  Weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth, wringing of hands and other assorted staples of the stage will be on full display.

I hope MSMT sends a scout to the proceedings, because they just might discover a major but unrecognized talent for future productions.

The best way to prepare yourself for the hysterics and to protect yourself from their effects is to get grounded in the facts, which, as someone famous once said, “are stubborn things.”

I’ve collected and summarized some figures from School Department operations going back to the 2005/2006 school year.  Let me summarize them briefly.

The student population attending our school system has declined from 3,355 in 05/06 to 2,746 as of October 2009.  That’s a decline of 609, or about 18%.  We could well lose another 100 or so in the coming months as the last of the military dependents exit the area, and there is a statewide student population decline of about 3% a year due to general demographic decline.  The school department will submit an update to the state in April, so we should have timelier figures before budget approval.

Readers who follow such things might notice that these figures seem at odds with those from the ever popular consultants Planning Decisions, Inc, who projected that with a brief perturbation, Brunswick enrollment would stay in the 3300 range over the long term.  Their figures were used to confirm the need for the new school even though the base closing was announced after the state approved school construction.  Oh well, you get “what you pay for,” as Colonel Yuban used to say.

In the same period, annual school department expenditures have increased from $29.7 million to $33.5 million, an increase of 13%, which seems reasonable.  Until you conflate the funding with enrollment figures.

When you do, you find that the average “cost per student year” has climbed from $8,841 in 05/06 to $12,189 in 09/10.  That’s right; in just four years, we’ve increased the amount we spend per student by $3,348, or 38%.  And THAT is not reasonable.  Or affordable!  Or sustainable!  Or anything else-able.

Here are the figures, which I have compiled from town budget documents and state Department of Education web pages.


Total $ (M)




$ increase

% increase











































You can see as well that we are at the mercy of the state on General Purpose Aid (GPA) to education.  There was a 25% increase a few years ago, accompanied by promises to lower property taxes 15%.  Yah, sure, as they say in the midwest.  Instead, the teachers’ union gobbled it all up, like shooting fish in a lobster pot.

One thing you can be sure of; state officials will look to their own interests and self-preservation first, rather than insulate towns from economic downturns.  But don’t feel bad; the staties are vulnerable to the feds in exactly the same way.

As the saying goes, bio-solids run down hill.  And hence the entirely predictable addiction of “revenue sharing” eventually bites lesser authorities right in their toochises.  And unsuspecting taxpayers in the wallet.

Rehab’s gonna be a bitch folks; you better lay in the blankets and other necessary provisions.  I predict an epidemic of cold sweats, with no handy remedies to make things easier.

At least none anyone has the guts to prescribe.

1 comment:

  1. Pretty strong stuff from a guy who almost single handidly brought Oxford Aviation and F. Lee Bailey to their knees.