Budget Season Begins
Tonight’s the first meeting at which the Tiverton School Committee will address next year’s budget. The upshot is that Superintendent Bill Rearick is offering, as an initial budget, an increase at the state cap (4.5%). Of course, he included in last year’s budget “surprise” federal “stimulus” cash, so this budget is actually 7.13% above the allocated amount at last year’s FTM.
ADDENDUM (from home):
My coverage of tonight’s meeting wasn’t exactly comprehensive, because I was following the conversation with especial intentness and offering comments from time to time. A few points:
- I was incorrect about the reason, but correct about the result, when it comes to budget discrepancies. The “stimulus” money wasn’t included in the number for last year’s budget, but it shows up as a deficit in the coming budget, meaning that current projected spending exceeds the amount laid out in the budget by $892,268.
- Superintendent Rearick mentioned several times that the taxpayers’ attempted level funding (thwarted by the federal gift) was to blame for the large shortfall, but it fell to me to point out that the district could have planned for that when it discovered itself flush with revenue.
- Owing to pension changes, the district currently has something like $235,000 lying around, but since midyear cuts in aide from the state are on the table, the committee and administration are inclined to leave that completely out of the picture, for now.
- The teachers’ union, which is currently without a negotiated contract, is concentrating on “ground rules” and such rather than taking up actual dollar amounts and negotiations.
- The currently proposed budget assumes no changes to healthcare-copays and zeroes out salary increases, excepting steps and an AFSCME raise scheduled at 2%.
- There does not appear to be much support from the folks on the state (metaphorically speaking) to impose labor policies unilaterally.
- Rearick was not shy about speaking the phrase “program cuts.”
- I estimated that a 3.5-4% across-the-board cut in combined salaries and benefits would entirely erase the deficit, and nobody contradicted my math.
- Tiverton Citizens for Change President Dave Nelson was not happy.
So basically, we’re looking at a district administration that’s pushing for the maximum tax increase that it can secure, a school committee that isn’t ready to commit to anything, a union that wants to delay, delay, and delay until the economy improves, as I predicted they would do back when the school committee made the ill-advised give-away that the last contract represented, and the TCC is not going to simply watch this budget float away.