Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pachyderm Puzzler

(By LT Ben Dover, Other Side contributor)


Judging from this article in The Forecaster, Brunswick Town Manager Gary Brown has been wearing his special elephant hiding eyeglasses as well.

I don’t think it should be that hard to see the little fellow, shown below. 


But apparently, no-one in Council chambers wants to be the first to shout  “Incoming, incoming!  Elephant at 12 o’clock!”  They look around the room, and all they see is this:


They’ll get another chance to look for him tonight, because the School Department is coming before the Town Council at 7pm for a Budget Workshop.  You can watch live at mms:// 

The elephant will be there; only those officials who have an ulterior motive for denying his presence won’t recognize him.  And so our poor fellow will continue to need therapy.


If you decide to read the article linked above, you should see this comment posted below it, which adds some factual insights to the story in response to a prior reader comment:

James C:

Since FY 01, Brunswick school enrolment has declined by 1,000 to it's current total of 2,350. In that year, the school budget was $23 million, and per student costs were under $7,000.

The proposal for the coming year (FY 14) is a budget of $35.7 million, which works out to a per student cost of over $15,000.

Since that time, 3 schools have been closed and replaced with one "more efficient" new one. Jordan Acres was closed and scheduled for demolition because no-one thought to keep the roof clear of snow accumulation that could cause structural failure. How's that for responsible stewardship by our 'public servants?' Who knew it snows here in Maine?

Here's a 'what if' scenario: In FY 06, per student costs were about $8,800 per year. If those costs had escalated by 5% a year, which is well above inflation, the cost per student in the coming year would be about $13,000, and the total budget would be $30.7 million, or $5 million less than the current proposal. Guess what: $5 million translates to about 17% in tax rate...exactly the amount talked about here!

I could go back to FY 01 and do the 5% escalation since then, and the numbers would end up lowering taxes substantially.

Does this budget increase history sound like a School Board and a School Department that has been diligent in the face of economic reality? Does this sound like a School Establishment that "gets it?" Does this sound like leaders that are mindful of the fiscal realities of its aging and largely elderly property taxpayer base?

And remember; the news reported here completely ignores the expected $40-50 million debt that will be incurred to tear down the remaining 'old schools' and replace them, which will add another tax increase of about 15%.

So here's an idea, James C. Go back to the FY 06 scenario I mentioned above, and escalate per student costs by 5% a year on a spread sheet; take those numbers and distribute them across the various budget lines. Do that for each year, and you'll have the numbers for FY 14. Should be just enough to call for no budget increase in the coming year.

Don't like that idea? Cut the salary and benefits line by $3 million just for starters, by whatever means you wish. Have to break a contract? Fine, do it.

Then get somebody with some common sense and integrity to deal with the maintenance issues at the existing schools, and replace those who allowed the schools to deteriorate to this point. And make public examples of them all.

The fact is that the public has been sleeping on duty for far too long, and tolerating incompetent management/oversight of municipal assets and functions.

Now it's time for someone else to pay their 'fair share.' We can no longer tolerate money-tree government.

What's your solution, James C? Putting your increased property taxes on your credit card?

Wow…that’s some pretty strong talk; I wonder who said it?


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