August 22, 2019

My Two Cents

Posted

Here we go again….Let me give you my two cents on the recent town meetings and additional monies requested by the school committee.

So, last year the school committee submitted an assessment to town meeting …it was subject to a 2 ½ prop override. They got exactly what they requested…the override passed. So, why did they have to use E&D (the equivalent to the town’s “free cash” ) to “balance” their budget? They set themselves up for an override this year…using one time monies (meaning it may not be available the following year) will likely result in another override to balance the budget.

The day after the override passed, the school committee and administration should have put together a 3 year financial plan. Step one, put an alternative method in the regional agreement that states each member town, Rehoboth and Dighton pays for their respective K-8 (students and associated costs as well as their buildings) easy since they reside in each of the towns…and split the high-school. Who doesn’t think that’s a fair way to assess each town? Then why is it not in the regional agreement and why doesn’t the school committee vote on that each year? Again, who doesn’t think this a fair way to assess the towns? And the plan may be an override each year for x amount of years…or one large override and then no override for several years. We don’t know because there is no looking forward.

Let me make this very clear…I am not referring to the wealth formula that results in Dighton receiving more chpt 70 money from the state that Rehoboth…that won’t change. Dighton will still pay less …they would paid for their student costs less the reimbursement. Rehoboth would pay for their students and less their reimbursement. Why is this not in the regional agreement and why doesn’t the school committee vote on this each year?

The school committee was looking for more money than could be supported with recurring revenue…about 500k. The superintendent basically blamed the finance committee because they didn’t meet to discuss their assessment. Really?? Do you think the finance committee has a money tree in the back yard to fund an additional 500k? Didn’t you know by using E&D last year, you set yourself up for another override? He also asked you to support the 500k increase and that they would work on a plan. Isn’t that backwards? Isn’t that the reason we have a shortfall this year….no plan last year, no plan this year….but give me the money and I’ll work on a plan? If you had a plan last year, you would have seen you would have known you didn’t ask for enough last year.

So, now the signs start…save our schools, save our town, support education. Why is it if you voted against the school committee’s additional request you are somehow anti school or don’t support education? Want to get the attention of every parent…the school committee votes to cut sports. The cuts are for coaches and transportation…I’m assuming since parents already pay user fees and that’s not in the budget. So how much is that? Keep in mind even if town meeting votes an assessment not the budget line items. The school committee can spend it any way they see fit. They could fund sports…again, don’t know what they are referring to in cutting sports….but they got everyone’s attention. I get why they did it….if they said they were cutting the administration cost would anyone care, besides the administrators?

Let me explain E&D….it’s similar to the towns “free cash “ the calculation of the balance is similar. Since the budgets are estimates for both the town and school…we estimate expenses and revenues. Any deviation in the estimates, revenue and expense…the net amount is E&D at the school, Free cash at the town. For example, if at the end of the year we overestimate certain expense lines, the excess falls into the E&D account at the school and Free Cash for the town. So, the school committee could look at each expense line in this budget and review past years to determine if there is any room to reduce those lines. Could they find 500k? Run a variance report and see what line items turn back money each year or did not spend that line….and can they eliminate it from the budget?

The E&D account had over a million in it….my guess that resulted in lower expenses. So instead of cutting sports, look at each line item to support the 500k shortfall….then start a plan for town meeting next year. The plan …assess each town their respective k-8, split the high-school and present a three year plan at the annual town meeting. It there is an override needed in any of those years…state it and say why.

I also notice a lot of Dighton residents and some Dighton elected officials berating Rehoboth taxpayers for not paying their share. To those, we pay our share and some of YOURS. Because the school committee does not vote an alternative method for assessing the member towns, the “statutory method” is applied. This results in REHOBOTH subsidizing Dighton. If that is not true, then why are you fighting so hard not to have an alternative method for assessing the towns in the regional agreement? We each pay for our k-8 and we split the high-school, again, what is not fair about that?

So, there will be an override ballot vote…not sure if a date has been set yet. However, apparently the school committee voted to have a “tent” meeting. I don’t know much about the tent meeting….apparently both towns, Dighton and Rehoboth meet to vote on the assessment…so I would guess if Dighton has more people come to the tent meeting they could vote to have Rehoboth fund the additional increase to the detriment of the town. School committee didn’t even wait for the outcome of the override ballot vote before setting a “tent” meeting date. Why?

My vote, if a tent meeting happens and Dighton forces Rehoboth to pay the additional 500k without an override, the plan to start de-regionalizing the k-8 needs to start the following day. We would lose reimbursement for transportation for the k-8 but get more equitable assessment to Rehoboth, and Dighton would have to pay for their k-8.

My two cents.

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