Letter To The Editor: Demonstrate Your Anger And Dissatisfaction – Vote No On The Override

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Letter to the editor:

We are all stressed these days. We are working from home, learning from home, socialize online and managing many emotions. We transform every room in the house from dining room to classroom to board room and beyond. Everyone is tired and we yearn for how things used to be. 

But do we really want things to go back to “normal”? Regardless of how you interpret this question, I hope we do not return to how things used to be. If we have learned anything through this pandemic, how it used to be doesn’t work. Blindly throwing more money at a problem does not solve the problem.  

Since the day we closed schools down more than a year ago, our administration and school committee have failed our students and families. The School Committee was not and still is not up to the task at hand. Its primary role is to negotiate with the Belmont Education Association (BEA) which they have utterly failed to do over and over this year. 

Teachers must also take part of this blame. Although many teachers have worked hard to transition to remote learning, others have chosen politics, toed the line and committed a grave disservice to the students they are supposed to serve. Shame on them. 

Our families are left in dismay and frustrated; the ones who are able are running for the hills, searching for solutions outside the district in any way they can. Those remaining are engaged in arguments of spending more money because they do not see a better way forward, despite the negative impacts on many of our families that are barely making ends meet. We are a year into a pandemic, which is by no means near its end. Our parents and students are understandably dissatisfied and have a right to be upset, but where should this frustration be focused? The leadership, “lack of funding,” or should it be something else that is goes below the surface? 

I have run twice for town office in two years. Both times with the position of reducing our overall town spending. No one wants to run on a platform to reduce spending which is admittedly an uphill battle, but one I believe must be undertaken. Even those who are in favor of the proposed override, agree that we lack fiscal oversight and management in town. Everyone agrees that we spend more than our revenue. Everyone agrees the town deficit is an inherited from generations of the past.

What we cannot agree on is how we fix the problem. There are many ways we can come together to solve this problem. However, this ridiculous push to continuing to spend our way out of a deficit is not sustainable. This approach will never force change upon our leadership and will forever be a financial burden on families.

I agree with Jeff Liberty’s Letter to the Editor published in the Belmontonian on March 21. Everyone is exhausted with the same conversations and arguments every single election. What I do not agree with; however, is electing the same people again and again or replacing leaders with their cronies that prevent to town from moving forward to create meaningful change for the betterment of our town and our educational system.

I understand and agree someone like me who is outspoken and takes unpopular opinions can be a scary decision at the ballot box. After years of ineffective meetings, committees, communication, and lack of good decision making, it is time to demand change. It’s time to hold our current leaders and their mistakes accountable with your vote.  

Voting either yes or no for the override will have real consequences. Ask yourself: will your family, friends, and neighbors still be able to live here after you cast your vote? Will you be able to look them in the eye and tell them you voted yes or no? Will your vote truly create fiscal control? A no vote gives us a real opportunity for change. A yes vote ensures the status quo. 

The town argues that current services are unsustainable in the current environment. I disagree. We are delaying hard but inevitable choices, structural changes that must be made. These changes must be made despite the outcome of the vote. Our community relies on us, collectively, to work together for the greater good. We want great teachers – we have many – we want to support our seniors to age in place – some are – and we want to have inclusive community – we are definitely not there yet. 

Years of ineffective leadership and mismanagement have taken us to where we are today. This is a simple and undeniable fact, and one we talk about during every election cycle. We have historically underfunded our schools and town departments because of, not despite of, the mismanagement of funds, which has caused division within our community. 

Challenges can also bring a community together, and because of this I am hopeful. The challenges we face are clear and defined, and therefore resolvable. This will require trust in each other and accepting new ways of thinking.  

The conclusion should be simple. Vote no against the override on April 6. Demonstrate your anger and dissatisfaction with our town’s leaders. Show you want real accountability and demand a clear, actionable plan for our collective future. Show you want a School Committee that will strongly negotiate for all our children and get them back in school. Show you want Town Meeting members that will put your precincts interest before their own. Show the Select Board that fiscally responsibility is a priority. And show you matter; demand this now.  

Timothy Flood, Wiley Road, Candidate for School Committee

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Comments

  1. V Jordan says

    The question is, Where does the money go? Briefly, most of the General Fund budget goes to the schools, 50%, and fixed charges, 20%. That leaves the rest of the town to run on 30% for police, fire, trash, roads, snow removal, library, recreation (those barrels in Joey’s Park) and all other town services.

    ———
    Fiscal Year 2021 General Fund expenditures,

    Education $ 66,297,299 50%

    Fixed charges $ 26,211,809 20%

    Operating Budget $ 38,622,366 29%
    Capital projects $ 1,176,415 1%

    General Fund Budget total
    $132,307,889 100%

    ————

    Note, the General Fund is most but not all of the total town budget. Schools, for example, receive an additional $9M from grants. Fixed charges means pension, debt and interest on debt. Almost all capital improvements are debt-funded. Even with an override, no department will get much more.

    source, TM budget documents,
    https://www.belmont-ma.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif2801/f/uploads/2020-06-16_atm_remote.pdf

  2. Dana says

    Vote no. These schools don’t deserve more of our money. In fact, I would like a refund on my taxes considering I have been my childrens main educator and we’ve spent thousands on supplies, materials, heating, WiFi, electricity, and additional wear and tear on the house. Not to mention that I have been unable to work due to the way these schools caved to the union. If they had managed the last year even somewhat decently then the state wouldn’t have cited them so many times. They should all be ashamed, but of course they are not.

  3. Thomas Curran says

    I tend to differ on this reasoning. There is $11+ million in free cash. This should be used for the towns operating expenses. As Mark Paolilo has stated a few months ago. The town leaders keep stating some of this money is required to go into reserve accounts. Again false as Paolilo was a selectman when this was defined as a suggestion if there was truly free cash after all bills were paid. It is not a policy as the current board keeps stating. Also if there were money issues why is there a “ Taj Mahal” type high school being built. Why was it not figured out that this “drastic number” of teachers would be needed for this new school? The project could have been scaled back accordingly. I know some are going to say a capital project is different from operating expenses but at the end of the day, the tax amount reflects all money needed to pay all the town’s debts. Again let’s wait for Mark Paolilo to get in office and put an end to the excessive spending and waste current admin is doing. Plain and simple the numbers don’t add up.

  4. Mary Lewis says

    It is dismaying to see an individual running for School Committee demonstrate such a poor understanding of how the school budgeting process works and how our district has delivered on many of the promises made since the 2015 override in terms of how it would spend our hard-earned tax dollars.

    The district promised it would use that money mostly for teachers and it delivered. You can read about that here (http://belmontonian.com/news/override-class-of-belmont-educators-earn-professional-status/) or, if you’ve lived here since before 2015, you can remember how much larger your kids’ classes were before the override.

    Not only did the district spend the money exactly the way it said it would, it actually stretched our tax dollars out three years longer than originally anticipated and added a few more incremental positions even since that first wave of teachers was hired as a result of the override.

    But, as much as it accomplished especially at the elementary level, the 2015 override wasn’t enough, and we saw that in all too glaring a form this past year. Chenery, which perhaps has the worst teacher-student ratio of the district and which already had study halls due to this poor teacher-student ratio, could not meet the task of serving our children as well as we expected.

    While everyone should be sympathetic to those who are struggling to meet mortgages and rents right now, this override is the least expensive option compared to the alternatives – all of which involve raising taxes more than $6.4m in the near future. Moreover, while federal funding cannot close our budget gap, it can provide aid in the form of rental assistance and there is also some mortgage and housing relief for qualified homeowners in the package as well. Small businesses like the one owned by Mr. Flood should also be eligible for some aid.

    Let’s say we went down a different road and didn’t fund this override. Would the Select Board risk putting back on the ballot in a year? I doubt it. They’d probably wait til the 2022 November midterm elections at least. So that would mean not one but TWO FISCAL YEARS of devastating cuts, worsening our teacher-student ratio, cutting many sports, theater and music programs, electives, APs, and more. Then if we finally did pass an override, instead of it being value added, it would just make up for all the cuts.

    We can’t afford to do this. We must pass this override.

    A failed override will impact the kids whose families are financially far more than others. Those others can, as Mr. Flood puts it, “head for the hills.” Or, more likely, the parents of those kids will supplement with tutoring, Russian School of Math, special music lessons, private theater programs in other towns, and so forth – to the tune of several thousand dollars a year per child.

    A failed override EXACERBATES economic inequality in our town. It does the exact opposite of what Mr. Flood says it will do, because taxes are redistributive in nature, unlike private tutoring tuition.

    I’m upset about the education my 5th and 7th graders got this year too – especially the 5th grader who for a while had three independent studies in a row on his home days. But as someone who has followed school funding for years, I can diagnose the source of the problem, and it’s not mismanagement of funds. One of those independent studies stems from the fact that after the 2010 override failed and 5th grade world language was cancelled, it was never added back. But more generally, the problem is that there are not enough funds to go around, which means too few teachers.

    If a school’s budget is bare bones, it has little capacity to cope with a crisis. We learned that the hard way this year. Now it is time to fund our schools,

    Four of the five school committee candidates have agreed that an override is necessary. They are not wrong.

    Vote Yes on April 6th.

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