Thursday, March 11, 2010

He’s hoping for “change”

Other Side was bemused, amused, and confused by the recent report that the Brunswick School Superintendent is considering a plan to collect spare change from area residents to supplement the usual revenue sources that fund the school budget.  You can read about the concept here.

Most intriguing was this reference by Mr. Perzanoski to a little known blogger that seemed to suggest the pajama-clad, irrepressible columnist would support his proposal:

"This program would be voluntary," Perzanoski said. "People like (Brunswick resident Pem Schaeffer) often go on about how residents should have the choice to decide if they want to support the school system, and I agree with him. ... We have to find ways to fund public education other than property taxes."

Knowing Schaeffer as I do, I feel qualified to comment.  Consider the following.

As reported in this prior post, in Brunswick schools, 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%. 

One would think that before the Super places change jars on counters around town, he could do a bit of inward reflection on this clearly unreasonable and unexplained growth in spending.  And that responsibly doing so would yield the equivalent of boatloads of “change.”  Don’t local taxpayers deserve such diligence and rigor in budget scrubbing and disclosure?

Such study would prepare the Super to come before the town in a public forum to explain, on the record, why he could not attenuate that increase, and must follow through with a loose change collection.  We should demand that he do so, with the school board right there as well, before any panhandling is authorized.

The sentiment attributed to Schaeffer by Perzanoski is a puzzlement.  I can report with authority that Schaeffer has been vocal on the subject of taxes and schools in the past, but the citation above rings no bells.  Instead, Schaeffer noted over the years that varied and sundry speakers at public budget hearings would proclaim their willingness “to pay more in taxes if it will be used for the children and the schools,” and that the town would never follow up on these offers.

So Schaeffer began the practice of bringing a sign up sheet to budget hearings for those so inclined to indicate their intent in writing, and town offices could follow up appropriately.  In the years he circulated the sheet around the room, not a single person at the hearing, regardless of their verbal pronouncements, would back it up with a written declaration.  In other words, lots of bluster, zero commitment.  Big hat, no cattle.

Perzanoski will undoubtedly elicit such statements again, and we suggest he more rigorously follow up on the generosity of such souls.  Additionally, he could prepare a flyer to be inserted in annual property tax bills that provides authorization for taxpayers to make voluntary overpayment to the town on their property taxes, and offers direction on how to submit a check directly to the School Department in excess of the legally obliged tax payment.

All the signs are in place that regardless of the realities involved, all the usual talking points from the schoolies’ handbook of budget laments will be rolled out yet again.  Nothing will be said of unwarranted contractual salary promises; nothing will be said of enrollment decline; nothing will be said of closed facilities.  Such are not the stuff of rational discourse.

And rational discourse is not the stuff of school budget discussions.  Just read the article in today’s Ostrich for confirmation.  You do understand, of course, that no matter what facts apply, the School Department is always entitled to a spending increase, and the teachers are always entitled to generous compensation increases.  And that’s without your OK, and without them agreeing to anything in the way of improved results or increased effort in return.

After all, they are public servants.  So deal with it.

As to collecting change around town, the very thought is demeaning, a shameful and gimmicky distraction, and an appeal to emotion rather than common sense and accountability.  The idea should be dismissed summarily, and replaced with a directive from our elected officials to get serious and get real.

If they aren’t willing, and nothing in the past would lead you to believe they would be, they can always go the always popular boxtop route.

Mr. Perzanoski is hoping for change, and so is Other Side.  But we aren’t holding our breath, and neither should you.  Plenty of others will be doing that in public until they get the tax increases they want. 

You can bet your last nickels and dimes on it.

Technorati Tags: ,,

No comments:

Post a Comment