Saturday, April 2, 2016

Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Einstein may have been on to something there. 

The rest of this is OPINION - READ AT YOUR OWN RISK:
Every. Single. Year. I blog, speak out, or downright complain about our cities unwillingness to provide for a population that cannot provide for itself.  I dare say for the last 16 hours plus, it has taken every ounce of my being not to throw an all-out social media temper-tantrum.  Why you ask?  Because once again the Mayor, and from what I can tell a majority of the Common Council have decided there are more important things to deal with in this fair City of ours, than the state of our children and in particular their academic success. 

For damn near a year, I heard Mayor Drew beat his proverbial drum about how, under his watch taxes went down.  I saw him ride that slogan to another Mayoral victory.  (Yes I did vote for Sandra, and no, this is not sour grapes.) To be honest I don’t dislike Mayor Drew as a person but I really don’t envy him, or anyone for that matter, who decides they want occupy the Office of the Mayor or have a career in politics.  But I digress… taxes went down, minimally, but down.  No later than 6 months into his first 4 year term (after serving two, 2 year terms) and taxes are going up!  SHOCKER!  I have no place in my heart for political twists, turns, or smoke & mirror tactics… but taxes are going up.  Is it due to the economic climate in Connecticut?  I might be able to buy that  with a certain naiveté – oh, and I can write another blog about your Governor. (Not my Governor, I didn’t vote for him… does it work that way?)  Are taxes really going up strictly due to the State’s crisis?  I doubt it – it’s just a convenient rational.  I find it funny that in the same breath that we are being told that Middletown’s economy is STRONG and we are being told that we have the best bond rating (and rate at which we can borrow) in the history of the City, we are also being told that now, NOW, would be the best time to raise taxes.  Really? 

Let’s assume for a second that raising taxes is a forgone conclusion because, well, it is.  I will play you my pitch from 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015.  If you are going to raise my taxes and take MORE of my hare earned money would you PLEASE spend it responsibly?  I don’t want to see spending on things that aren’t necessary until all the things that are necessary are fully funded on an annual basis.  And as unpopular as this will be (especially with my friends who are passionate about it) – STOP the riverfront recapture routine until you fix our real problems.  Again to reiterate from the past, I am for reallocation of funds before raising taxes but if you are going to raise taxes spend it right.  My opinion is that our primary responsibility is education, public safety (including mental health services) and then education some more.  If there happens to be anything left over, well then maybe those fancy shiny solar trash bins (shout out to Steve Smith), lighting the bridge, or selling ice cream and creating memories on a board walk by the river.  (Like I said, this is my opinion – coincidentally my blog too)  I would love to have a riverfront and revitalized downtown to visit, but at what cost? If I hear one more quote that “Middletown is going to be put on the map as Connecticut’s mecca for tourism because of its restaurants, shopping, river-front, and arts” I will vomit.  I hear daily (occupational hazard) that “Wow!  I love going to Middletown you have great restaurants.  I wouldn’t live there but I love eating there….” Doesn’t anyone want to hear our Mayor say that the City is currently experiencing a population boom because of the high quality of our school system AND all of our cultural opportunities.   

Back to present day – the Mayor as part of his 1.5% tax increase has earmarked the Board of Education to receive less than a 1% increase from last year’s budget.  (In a year where amongst other things there is a contractual obligation to increase some salaries by 3%)  Less than 1% (let’s call it approximately $700,000 give or take) doesn’t even keep up with inflation and the standard cost increases of items the district can’t do without, let alone allow us to compete with other districts AND those wonderful magnet schools we have all heard so much about.  Mayor Drew’s argument to me (and what sounds like his new drum) is “Sodexo… pulls $500,000 in profit and $80,000 in sales tax from the board’s budget every year”  Maybe that’s true (and I never liked the Sodexo contract for a multitude of reasons) but it’s not like a substantial majority of that $580,000 wouldn’t still need to be paid out for the same required services.  I didn’t find this argument very strong.  I am also being told that our school age enrollment is “trending downward”…. I wonder why?  It couldn’t be that our families with young children are electing to live elsewhere or send their kids to magnet schools could it?  It would have nothing to do with the school system being put in the back burner year after year, right?  Oh, is there a decline on the state level too?  That has nothing to do with Malloy’s stellar leadership, I’m sure….
I understand the argument that there are places where the BOE can cut, but honestly, I have heard our local politicians say that for years.  Have they shown up to budget meetings to offer their advice? Or to comb over the books with the budget committee?  Are they just shouting rhetoric with no substance to back it up?  Hmmmm, interesting thought there. 
Under previous leadership, and a non-transparent board, I may have agreed with the rhetoric.  But having watched the current board (and the most previous two) coupled with the leadership of Superintendent Dr. Charles, I can tell you there is no stone being left unturned. And I can tell you the budget as proposed by Dr. Charles, Vinnie Loffredo and the rest of the board is not pie in the sky.  They were asked to cut a budget from hopes, dreams, and forward thinking, down to a “can’t live without” version. Despite the public’s urging not to cut the budget at this time, the board in good faith moved forward and was able to cut their initial budget nearly in half before it “…started hurting real people. Real lives, teachers and students…” And now the Mayor’s proposal is to cut nearly 80% more from a bare boned budget.  (This is so disappointing)

So I guess what I am trying to say, and in an effort to curb my rambling mind, is that if the Mayor and his colleagues at City Hall think that $700,000 is anything more than “a slap in the face” then let’s hear their thoughts behind the number.  I am calling out each and every one of them to sell me on how an increase of less than 1% while we are still being short changed by the state is enough to save jobs, class sizes, arts, music, and keep our academic performance moving forward (or even staying the same).  Let’s hear from those esteemed elected officials of ours.

And to the community members out there, whether you agree with me or not (and preferably the ones that do agree) please come out to City Hall for the public sessions.  Have your voice heard – don’t sit idly by and watch our schools go in the tank – when we can still do something about it.  We are not New Britain, we are not Hartford, we are Middletown – be proud – but do something meaningful to save it.

Comments graciously accepted below!


Anonymous said...

Spot on! I like the Mayor's thought that the schools population is decreasing so funding need not increase as much. So the spirals further down the drain in Middletown due to budget constraints. Oh, how very welcoming to parents wanting to move to Middletown this is. When will the powers to be finally make education a priority? As JFK said "Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation."

Anonymous said...

$700,000 short? That's about what just went for a grant, $686,000, for a hiking trail. Priorities?????? Can't blame that on the mayor.

BrianK said...

Anon 10:43. Certainly kicking the idea around.