Monday, February 1, 2016

Crimmins on Crocodile Tears (about Brunswick School Dept budgets)


Frank Lee, we can’t remember whether we’ve posted before about young Jon Crimmins, or posted an item of his here on Side.  He is now a ‘featured opinion writer’ in The Ostrich.  He’s also a stand-up guy with deep Brunswick roots.  His father, Tom Crimmins, was a town councilor until his untimely passing, and he has a young family - wife and two boys -  last time I knew.

In our view, he’s also a clear thinker and observer of Brunswick town governance, and a damn good writer.  His latest item in the above referenced print outlet is a perfect example.  Jon has given us his permission to post it here, along with his email address so you can contact him and comment if you wish.  Should you do so because of this post, please mention that fact so he knows from whence the response derives.  Jon can be reached at:

Here is the text of his column as he submitted it; it appeared in the January 27th edition of the local paper:


When someone does a good job I think it is important to make note of it and applaud the effort. In keeping with this ideal, I want to take the opportunity to thank School Superintendent Paul Perzanoski on his efforts to bring entrepreneurship to the School Department. In case you missed the story from last week, the Superintendent is going to start selling clothing that will, in a small way, go to support some summer educational programs including a reading and math camp.

This foray into the world of clothing sales will undoubtedly raise fewer eyebrows than the last attempt to raise money by the school department. Several years ago, the School Department’s website had a link on it which allowed the user to purchase various quantities of male enhancement supplements. The address for the online pharmacy has long since escaped me, suffice to say that the school department was not peddling the wares of Osco or Walgreens. Despite this, I am sure that the firm was legit.

At the time, when I contacted the Superintendent about the information on his page, he was silent for a moment but said it would be removed later that day. True to his word, roughly four hours after alerting the department to the link it was gone. Vanished after what can only be seen as a stiff reminder as to why you should check your sites often.

All of this brings me back to my congratulations for Paul Perzanoski. He is going to overcome the, “budget difficulties” of the last eight years to restore some programs. Bravo!

The only question I have is what “budget difficulties”? Is the Superintendent saying that Brunswick has seen their school budget get decimated and cut? Maybe we really do need that math camp program after all.

If you have had the same passing interest in town governance over the past decade or so that I have had, then you may recall the yearly drama at budget time. You know the time, when the people of Brunswick routinely approve increases to the school budget and sometimes, the municipal budget.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, nearly a decade’s worth of budget documents can be found right on the School Department’s web page. That information paints a wildly different view of the idea that Brunswick schools have suffered through a financial crisis.

For the 2007-2008 year, again according to the School Department’s own figures, the approved budget was $32,734,737. No paltry sum. Some of the years showed increases in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. One year even topped out at more than a $1,500,000 increase, year to year.

Now, yes, there were three years where the school budget actually was smaller than the year preceding it. Those three reductions amounted to a grand total of $300,885. Even accounting for the reductions in the budget, by the time that the 2015-2016 budget was passed by the voters in June of last year, the school budget had ballooned to a total of $36,525,855. The eight years of “budget difficulties” saw the school budget grow by more than $3,791,118.

Remember, these are not just any figures. These are the figures that the School Department has put on their website.

Of course the dollar amounts don’t tell the entire story of this saga. No, if the School Department witnessed a vast increase of students there may be some justification for the increases. So what does the enrollment look like in Brunswick?

Again, using the numbers provided in the budgets from the School Department the number of students accounted for at the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year was 3,204. The number projected to start the 2015-2016 school year was just 2,288. Over the course of the time that the Superintendent is claiming that we are in a difficult position we have seen our school population drop by 916 students. This cannot be right.

How can it be that the enrollment has dropped by nearly 1,000 students or 30% of the pupils and yet the budget has increased by roughly 11% in that same timeframe? How can anyone in, good conscience, call this, “budget difficulties”?

I do applaud the Superintendent for his willingness to look outside the box with this new endeavor, but I really think we are being taken to the cleaners and it is not for the new shirts.

That’s my two cents…


As we read it, the words “two cents” reminded us of an item we posted in the early days of Other Side.  This one:


It’s about the Super’s plan then for drudging up extra jingle from local taxpayers because the School Department was being starved, as he saw it.

Horse puckey.


Any objective review of School Department funding, especially when based on per student spending, puts the lie to anything the PP might say on the subject.  Of course, there’s the standard communications methodology favored by such bureaucrats.

That is, anything but approval of a requested increase in a budget is a ‘cut.’  If a 10% increase is requested, but only an 8% increase is granted, the budget has been ‘cut,’ of if you’re in a heated discussion, ‘slashed again’ or ‘cut to the bone.’


Jackie the P, a town councilor for several terms some years back, frequently asserted that ‘we’ve been cutting school budgets every year for as long as I can remember’ or some such blatant claptrap.  We kept looking for budget declines year over year, and finally came to understand that we were being toyed with by a practitioner of public tears of distress, distraction, and delusion.

We started keeping track of budget totals back around then, along with school enrollment.  And recently, we asked the town finance department to compile our own personal property tax history for our domicile, along with the share going to the Brunswick School Department.

We have never had children in the Brunswick School System.  None the less, without telling you more than you need to know, our current tax bill includes a school allocation that is multiple thousands more than it was when we built our house in the late 90’s.  Matter of fact, it’s up by $1,500 or so in the last five years, or an increase in school taxes that averages in the range of $300 per year.  That’s not pocket change, friends and readers.

Especially when you consider that school system enrollment has declined by roughly 30% since base closure, and has not rebounded by any meaningful amount, even though expert consultants predicted we would be back at pre-closure levels by now.  Quick!  Somebody find 1,000 students so the consultants can be vindicated.


For now, however comma we leave the Superintendent and his mommy mafia with these words of wisdom.

And as for you, dear reader, you might chase down your own property tax history over the years of this century as well, so you can see for yourself the ‘budget difficulties’ in recent years, and how you, personally, have been such a tightwad when it comes to funding school needs.

Wouldn’t it be fun if at an upcoming budget hearing this spring, a bunch of us held up signs clearly showing how much more we’re paying in school taxes than we were 10 years ago, along with how many fewer students the school system is educating.

We doubt that Professor Gruber and Super PP would approve, but so what.  It’s time some realism, facts, and truth become part of the discussion, as unpopular as that might be with the ruling elites.  They proved their disdain for such things in the Downeaster ‘economic benefit’ debate, and they’ll surely look the other way in response to such signs of protest.

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