Questions to ask yourself in considering an override

Perhaps, by answering some of these questions, you can better understand why costs are not under control.

  • When our average town meeting member votes on the school budget come April, will (s)he know how much of the school salary increases will be due to step increases versus COLAs.  Step increases are one of those benefits whose cost is not well known at all.  It is at best an ambiguous benefit since it relies on years of service, years in a previous step, etc.  If it's difficult to calculate, how do we put it in our budget?

  • Do town meeting members have at their disposal a complete list of costs associated with schools?  For instance, school debt service, school health insurance, school retirement, grounds maintenance, business and finance costs, IT costs, bussing costs, staff costs, teacher costs, and so on and so forth?  All this information would fit neatly on one 8.5" by 11" sheet of paper.  Is it available?  Of course not!

  • Why does town meeting take an average of 25 minutes to pass the nearly $100 million school budget in town meeting, but are willing to haggle on a $1000 item for an hour.

  • Health insurance for retirees is also difficult because of longevity issues, staff turnover, rising costs, and the general unpredictability of the future in general.  So why do we have it as a benefit?  Why not offer some fixed amount (say $5000) a year in health benefits after retirement?  They fund the rest.

  • Why don't we offer a 401K as a retirement plan?

  • Why do we have a policy of allowing and even encouraging illegal immigration when we know that through the Plyler Vs. Doe Supreme Court decision in 1980, their children will add a burden to our school taxes?  Not to mention other town services.  Most people want to pretend that this is not an issue even up for discussion.

  • Why do we want to limit social services, but not illegal immigration?  Some claim that we have more social services than the town needs.  How about illegals?  Do we have more than we need?

  • Why do we accumulate real estate?  Why do we have three town halls, old schools and libraries and rent them out at a loss? Are town halls collectibles like baseball cards, and gain value over time?

  • Why do we subsidize the LIFT buses, the Danforth Museum, the Loring Arena, knowing full well that they will cost us forever.

  • Should town and school employees have jobs guaranteed for life?

  • Should town or school funding ever be cut or trimmed?

  • Should the town's General Fund always increase from year to year under any and all circumstances?

  • Why do we allocate 63% of the General Fund to schools whose students constitute 13% of the population?  The other 87% of us aren't dead yet.... or are we?

  • Why do we offer health insurance to part-time ( <20 hours/week) employees?  School crossing guards work an everage of 8 hours a week and get health insurance even into retirement, as do bus drivers.

  • Why should only the police be flag men at construction sites?  (They have a state sponsored monopoly).  Paying someone more than $15/hour to do this seems excessive.  They get paid over $40 an hour.

  • Why do we have three deputy police chiefs , two assistant fire chiefs, four deputy fire chiefs , and an assistant town manager?  Will more deputy chiefs be better for the town?

  • Why is our schools student to teacher ratio 11 to 1?  How low should it be?

  • Why is our schools student to full/part-time adult ratio 5.5 to 1?  How low should it be?

  • What percentage of our kindergarden and BLOCKS program is subsidized?

  • Why are 20% of our "normal" school students Special Education (SPED) ?  What SPED rate is too high?  Ours is twice the national average.

  • Why does an average "normal" student cost $13,000 to educate?

  • Why are 42% of Keefe Tech students SPED ?  What SPED rate is too high?

  • Why does a Keefe Tech student cost over $17,000 to educate and a regular student costs about $13,000?

  • Why do we only spend a mere 1% (one percent) of the the General Fund on road maintenance?

  • What is an acceptable per capita cost of local government?  Ours is currently $2,815 per capita (every man, woman and child).

  • What annual percentage growth should the town government General Fund have, given a stable population?

Send comments to: hjw2001@gmail.com