Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Dead End Road

What is insanity, as Albert Einstein is reported to have said: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results;" but, in Portsmouth insanity is not funding our basic education plan. It looks to me that we are headed right back to the Courts over what arguably is $120 to $200 per year tax increase for the average taxpayer. This is not the fault of the Town Council; it's being shoved down from the State. We need our Councilors to lead, to avoid another legal battle, and to recognize that the School Committee has put forth a reasonable budget. We need our Councilors and School Committee to address the larger long-term issue with the new State Education Funding Formula. Portsmouth is set to loose $2.6 million in State education aid over the next ten years. That means $260,000 per year! We might as well live in the Courts. Insanity!

As I stated earlier tonight, and as I have lived firsthand, the School Committee is chartered by the State and has a fiduciary duty is to maintain the basic education plan. The Council is chartered by the State as the taxing authority for the schools. RI Law allows the School Committee recourse to the Courts if the Basic Education Plan is not fulfilled, as we have witnessed. Does the Council believe that we are not headed back to the Courts? "Yes your Honor, we closed two schools, consolidated our elementary students in two schools, moved our 4th and 5th grades to available space at the Middle School, laid off teachers and staff..." shall I go on. Insanity is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees - that gets us nowhere!

Leadership is realizing this community faces difficult decisions, not just in the present, but for the next ten years! There are times that taxes become necessary. The State of Arizona passed a 1% temporary sales tax last month to fund education. The most conservative State in our Nation may just have its priorities straight. Today we need the leadership of the majority of Councilors to move beyond politics and support a reasonable tax increase. It is insanity not to believe that this will be the outcome of legal action, plus the legal fees, plus the added administrative cost of sending tax bills, and the bitterness between residents. Portsmouth would be provided a tax waiver from the cap due to loss of non-property income, namely State Aid. Do we have the Council with enough leadership to make these difficult decisions?

We as a community need then to discuss, debate, and answer the bigger problem of the forthcoming $2.5 million in loss of State Aid over the next ten years. We all need to be at the table: parents, unions, School Committee and Council. We face real persistent budget gaps and we can not expect to answer these problems in two weeks.

I urge residents to email the Council if you agree with me that this is insanity.

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