Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Budget Compromise? or Compromised?

Good news! Mayor Flanagan has dipped into his (our) piggy bank and found some extra money for education! And he has promised even more once the GIC becomes a reality! Thankfully the city will now be able to 100% net fund the school budget and education will continue without mass layoffs!

HIP HIP HOORAY.... HIP HIP HOORAY

If you're detecting a tone of sarcasm here it's not by accident.

I do think that it is a good thing that the Mayor has come back with a proposal that SHOULD* restore educational funding to the bare minimums of what is needed. But I really can't pat him on the back and let his supporters start planning the victory parade.

Why?

Well first off because the reason he came back with this proposal is because the council rejected his budget. His original proposal of net funding to 98% is pure economic stupidity. I can't believe anyone believes that we are going to have the ability to fund education to 100% the following fiscal year PLUS the 2% we would have been short for fiscal 2012. He is already saying the fiscal 2013 budget will be even tougher so why would you budget this way?

Secondly, All the focus has been on the school budget! Meg Mayor Brown has had to figure out where to make all the cuts and all the political pressure has been on the school budget. Damn this pisses me off because really every aspect of the budget should have been looked at for savings. Folks if there is fat in the school budget, then there is fat in the municipal budget too. Long term budget scrutiny would have been a very worthwhile thing.

Flanagan's compromise is basically pulling out reserve cash and a few other things and then promising the extra money if GIC passes. Well what if it doesn't? And even if it does how watertight is that promise? Oh he'll sign something! I want something binding, better yet cash up front. Let him fund it all now and use the GIC money to payback the 1% cuts he would have to make across the board.

I'm still confused by his numbers! If we're getting an extra 4.5 million dollars for education and he claims 1.7 is being eaten by Charter tuition increases BUT really we're getting an additional 1.2 million to offset that.. Where is the rest of that 4.5 million going? I'd like to see this cleared up.

That said the Mayor's compromised budget is almost certainly going to pass. The superintendent is already showing she is on board and the council has no appetite to deny a budget that she is happy with and that would almost certainly result in one with municipal side layoffs.

I had the opportunity to watch the city council meeting from 6/15 and while this is a great opportunity to say "good job City Council" what I found most interesting was the talking points from the business leaders that were invited to attend. Some of what was said are exactly the things that I have said here (And obviously many many others have said too), how education is vital to the future of the city, that OUR children will have to compete against those from communities that HAVE funded education and so on and so forth. But one of the things that REALLY, REALLY struck me were the comments by Bob Karam. What he said was, and I'm recalling from memory here.. we can't continue to run government the way we have. We have to look outside the box on how to save money. He mentioned the idea of privatizing the DPW or at least trash collection. He pointed out that he knew that such actions would have real consequences on real people but the alternative was the endless cycle of budget cuts and layoffs because we can't afford to pay for these services. He said he recognized the city was in a death spiral and Pat Casey took some offense to that and said that this was a great city but HE'S RIGHT! Yes, Fall River is a great city but we're nosediving and unless someone figures out how to right the flaps or pull the damn nose up it's going to get uglier! We have got to find ways to either increase revenue or drastically reduce city spending or BOTH. In the end Flanagan's compromise is another band-aid approach that taps our dwindling resources and doesn't solve the issue, just puts off the problem for another day.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

My parents didn't have much of an education but they worked hard and saved and made sure that their kids could get a good education and understood the value of it. Councilors like Leo Pelletier and Pat Casey are the ultimate tragedy, they have no education and don't see why anyone else needs one or why education should be valued. After all, they did okay for themselves "witout no stinkin' education" right? Their role on the Council seems to be little more than comic relief except it's a joke that's growing less funny and more sad.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Unless we find ways to change how we are doing business, we are going to be having this education/public safety problem year after year. A pay cut might work one year, but usually that comes with a large increase down the line. These are not permanent fixes and set us up for worse problems down the road. It is clear that some councilors found serious padding in the budget, which speaks to your point about cuts everywhere. There are clearly cuts that could be made in all aspects of the budget, but some councilors only want to talk about the schools because they are pissed about a raise, or coaches or the Superintendent and school committee not kissing their ass enough. You can almost see an inverse relationship as far as councilors support of money for education and their education attainment level. Anonymous is right. Back in the day, parents of this city were not highly educated, but they knew it was the way out of lower middle class for their kids. Not some of these councilors. I do not know whether to laugh or cry at times.