Government in Miniature

With Tiverton’s financial town meeting (FTM) fast approaching, I’ve been having to attend multiple town meetings per week to keep an eye on the local powers who be. For anybody who’s interested, the resulting liveblogs and videos are up on the Tiverton Citizens for Change Web site.
The experience has been a real education in the functioning of government — which clearly operates in a separate and distinct reality from the rest of us. From the rhetoric being flung at those of us who wish to halt the perpetual tax increase during a time of economic hardship — that we’re “destroying the town” and so forth — you’d never guess this to be the case:

The school side of the budget is particularly disconcerting. According to state law, school committees cannot request “municipal funds (exclusive of state and federal aid) in excess of one hundred four and one-half percent (104.5%) of the total of municipal funds appropriated by the city or town council for school purposes for fiscal year 2010.” As far as General Assembly language goes, that couldn’t be clearer. Yet, the committee actually requested 106.17%.
Its stated reasoning was that last year’s FTM “appropriated” both the local funds and the estimated state funds, and since the state cut its contribution by about $300,000, that money ought to be figured into the budget. Nevermind that the above legislation contains language making all laws to the contrary “notwithstanding.” Nevermind that the state actually did give the school district all of its expected aid, just using federal funds to fill the gap.
Over the past week, TCC finally managed to learn the district’s revenue from all sources. Until now, the school department has kept millions of dollars undisclosed on the grounds that it was for “restricted” purposes. Working that data into the mix reveals that direct state aid to Tiverton schools actually went up. Moreover, federal money exploded, moving the total state and federal aid from $6,150,846 to $6,967,039.
The problem, from the school department’s perspective, is that total aid is expected to drop back to $5,848,725 this coming year — mostly through a drop in those secret “restricted” funds. The end result is that all of the declarations of hardship and of a danger of the schools’ being “gutted,” “destroyed,” and “decimated” represent an attempt to pressure the town into making up for “restricted” money that the district built into its budget. It seems to me that money for special purposes — of which townsfolk supposedly had no reason to be informed — should bring those special purposes with it when it goes. Otherwise, it wasn’t really “restricted,” was it?
Of course, we all know where most of the money actually goes:

What makes the battle all the worse is the creeping suspicion — rather, confidence — that government functions like this all the way up the chain, only exponentially more expensive and exponentially more deceptive the broader its reach.

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Stuart
Stuart
11 years ago

Those charts seem to exactly track the increases in health care costs – which doubled from 1999 to 2009.
They also seem to closely track defense spending, which also increased at about that same rate.
So, what are you telling us?
That corporations who provide health care are entitled to those increases year over year, but the education sector or town budget is not.
What is the year to year compound percentage growth PER YEAR in your charts. That is the most important figure in such comparisons.
Are your charts adjusted for inflation?
If you adjust for inflation, what is the yearly compound growth?
I’ll have to estimate it myself…..
OK, just inflation would make that 17.5 million become over 22 million.
Now, let’s calculate compound growth of that 22 over – 8 years.
That comes out to 4.5% or about what long term treasuries are now paying.
OK, so are you saying that an increase in budget of what long term treasuries are paying is FAR excessive? Or is it normal?

Monique
Editor
11 years ago

Contrast that first graph (trend of the tax levy, 75% + of which goes to schools) to a graph of student enrollment for the same period. The line goes in the opposite direction.
Now, can anyone offer an explanation, other than wanting to place special interest friends above the best interest of the town, the taxpayers and the students, why these two lines go in the exact opposite direction and why, incredibly, it is proposed that the town continue to WIDEN rather than begin closing that gap?

Stuart
Stuart
11 years ago

>>Now, can anyone offer an explanation, other than wanting
Part, but not all, of the reason is that one person ten years ago is still one person today.
But the value of money….a dollar…goes down over time.
I tried to explain some of that above, but apparently you think cars are expensive now because my grandfather got his first Buick for $950 (in 1947).
Repeat after me.
Humans are always Humans.
Money changes in value over time.
Ah, you feel better already.

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