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City school budgeting: Yes, it is crazy
Speaking of the way the City of Manchester handles its school budget, graphic arts teacher Debi Rapson said on Tuesday: “The process needs to change because we do this every year; it’s crazy.”
She is right. Every spring, Washington, D.C., sees cherry blossoms, Boston’s Public Garden sees tulips, and Manchester sees teacher pink slips. That is crazy.
But is the solution to simply raise taxes every single year? Of course not.
Last August, Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas asked city department heads to have their budget proposals to him in September. He wanted to get a much earlier-than-usual start on the budget so the city would not have to go through the typical last-minute rush to complete it by July. Some aldermen scoffed at the idea and accused the mayor of playing politics.
Guess what happened? This spring the schools issued pink slips to 161 teachers, some of whom got them during class. And here we are just a few weeks before the budget deadline with no budget.
The process really is crazy. It is crazy to put off budget discussions for months and just hope problems fix themselves. It is crazy that the city schools have 4.7 percent fewer students than in 2007-08 and 6.6 percent fewer teachers, but a budget that is 2 percent larger. It is crazy that aldermen approved a teacher contract a few years ago that included pay raises in the middle of a crushing economic downturn. It is crazy that public education unions completely ignore economic reality and the wishes of the voters.
The process needs to change. Elected leaders need to take their budgeting responsibilities more seriously. And public employee unions need to stop viewing taxpayers as unlimited reserves of ready cash to be tapped annualy like maple trees.
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