Kids are being sent home from school with a “please support our schools” flyer. Parents are receiving multiple emails from School sources. And, even more unbelievably, a large number of Town residents – all of them with kids in the schools, as far as we can tell – received a robocall from School Board Chair Donna Beeley on June 4. In the call she doesn’t beat around the bush… she “encourages you to vote yes…” on the school budget referendum.
The numbers called appear to be the phone numbers parents provided to the schools for emergency contact purposes, not for political purposes.
The calls raise several significant issues:
1. Why is the School Board misusing private and personal data to push its budget proposal?
2. What school (i.e., public) resources were used to make the calls?
3. Why doesn’t the call specify who authorized the call?
4. Did the School Board seek legal advice about the appropriateness of the calls? If so, who paid for the legal consultation?
5. What was the School Board’s process for authorizing Ms. Beeley to make the calls? (We don’t recall hearing a discussion of this significant policy decision at any recent School Board meetings. Is there another School Board decision-making process in addition to their public meetings that we don’t know about?)
Obviously the School Board members are worried. As well they should be. It seems to be sinking in that an 8.2% increase in the taxpayer funding of the schools is not playing well in the court of public opinion.
If you haven’t already voted, please make sure you add your voice to the NO chorus! And please nudge as many family members, friends and neighbors as you can in the direction of Town Hall tomorrow!
Are you being misled?
At last Thursday’s School Board meeting, one of the members strongly suggested that Scarborough residents are being “misled” when they are told that taxpayer funding of the schools will increase by 8.2% if the budget is approved. Well, please take a look at the following excerpt from the Town’s budget calculation worksheet and decide for yourself.
Yes, indeed, the “Total Net Budget” (aka “2016 amount to be raised”) is increasing by 8.19%. (All our postings are carefully reviewed for accuracy by the renowned Cambridge, Massachusetts law firm of Dewey, Cheatham & Howe.)
- If the budget is not approved by voters on June 9, the Town Council must prepare a revised budget and submit it to another voter referendum at least ten days but no longer than 45 days after the failed referendum vote.
- If the voters have not approved a school budget at referendum by July 1, the most recent school budget which has been approved by the Council and submitted to the voters for validation at referendum goes into effect on a temporary basis. (So if we did not hold another referendum before July 1, the school budget we’re considering on June 9 would temporarily go into effect.)
- After each failed budget validation referendum, the Town Council must prepare a revised budget and submit it to another voter referendum at least ten days but no longer than 45 days after the failed referendum vote. (So the process could theoretically continue well into the summer – with the June 9 proposed budget being in effect the entire time.)
Let’s hope that the next version of the school budget addresses the financial realities that most Scarborough face.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while now, you know that irony is one of our favorite things. And it is with a large dose of full-strength irony that we report the resignation of Ms. Jane Leng from the School Board.
As you recall, Ms. Leng famously suggested that those who can’t afford Scarborough’s ever-increasing tax burden should consider relocating to a town with lower taxes. The Leng family has now relocated to the West coast. We suspect it was not a tax-motivated move. With all sincerity, we wish them well and thank Ms. Leng for her service on the School Board. [Editor’s note: I personally found Ms. Leng to be a very thoughtful and open-minded member of the School Board. I will miss her willingness to ask tough questions and challenge the conventional wisdom.]
One last time… please herd as many folks to Town Hall tomorrow as possible.
Happy trails until we meet again!