Wcmom asks me to offer solutions. Evidently she hasn’t bothered to listen when I have spoken on this subject at public meetings. She didn’t even read my letter carefully or she would have seen me reference two solutions. One of them is that I have pointed out for several years that annual salary increases (STEP and COLA combined) of teachers, and by extension administrators, have been too high and were not sustainable. Now we face the full impact of these past salary contract decisions. And please, stop the talk about teachers’ hard work and stressful environment. Look at average people who work in the private sector – they have had to work harder too in the face of stiff competition from the global economy, and they haven’t had the advantages of (almost) guaranteed annual salary increases, strong protection from layoffs, and better benefits. And oh yes, teacher salaries average higher than those of similar jobs in the private sector. But when I challenged the School Committee to revise the salary steps in order to reduce the annual growth in salary costs, they indicated it could not be done! By the way, the state website shows that for 2011, the latest year available, average teacher salaries in Shrewsbury were $72,532 vs. the state average of only $70,340.
What wcmom and many parents don’t want to understand is that the school department can reduce the size of budget increases by reducing the growth in the cost of providing services (teacher salaries) or by reducing the number of teachers. That it almost inevitably talks about reducing the number of teachers, to the detriment of the children, should tell you something about its priorities.
One last point: why does wcmom postulate in a comment to me that the preliminary school budget may be some nefarious and evil plot? I never said that.
Paul100, 1) There is no problem with them being a lobbying group. The problem is that either they (or perhaps it was the reporter’s error) presented this group as ‘providing the community with unbiased information’. A lobbying group usually provides selective and biased information that favors its objectives. 2) And of course more information is better, but knowing who is providing the information is just as important in making informed decisions.
Wcmom, 1) You say the meeting was factual, but even if completely true, the information imparted may be misleading, e.g., other facts were not presented. 2) You say there is a great deal of misinformation out in the public. Ok, then let this group provide substantive examples of this misinformation and correct them. 3) I am quite familiar with the budget documents on the town and school websites. The school budget documents themselves contain biased and incomplete facts.
So Shrewsbury Advocates says it wants to provide the community with unbiased information. Really? And who do they say is putting out biased information - town officials? And if it's not town officials, then town officials should be providing the public with unbiased information, and Shrewsbury Advocates should be unnecessary.
No, it seems clear that Shrewsbury Advocates is just another lobbying group with its own agenda and its own biases, and whose own communications will be biased in favor of increased taxes and fees. View Comment
1) Your argument, and that of other town officials, is that residents should be encouraged to conserve water by increased rates, and I agree. Where I disagree completely with you is in your insistence that commercial businesses should not be encouraged to conserve water to the same degree as residents, i.e. by charging them the same higher rates at higher consumption levels. 2) You say that a family consuming 100,000 gallons in 3 months is using 3 times the national average, but so what? Water is more scarce in many other parts of the country, so all water consumers in those parts probably pay much higher water rates than in New England. 3) You and the Town Manager focus on averages, but some households may have very good reasons for their high consumption levels, such as medical issues, just as some (but certainly not all) commercial users may have very good reasons for their high consumption levels. 4) I’m sure you were trying to be funny when you suggested that we cut off folks who consume too much water or protest outside their homes; otherwise, we would have to apply these actions to wasteful commercial users. Or do you seriously believe that no commercial businesses are wasteful, or that no businesses water their lawns more than they should? 5) You say that ‘the town is unable to access cash from property taxes’ but what you mean is that you are unhappy that the town has not approved a Proposition 2 ½ budget override, so let’s ‘sock it to the heavy residential users’. OK then, but you still haven’t explained why that same logic should not apply to heavy commercial users as well. 6) Shrewsbury is a low cost community for businesses as well as residences. Businesses pay the same property tax rate as residences, unlike other places like Worcester and Marlborough. They enjoy lower water, sewer, and electric rates than most other communities in Massachusetts. Thus both businesses and residences are ‘paying their way’ equally, except that Shrewsbury gives its largest commercial water consumers substantial discounts relative to its largest residential consumers. 7) It’s obvious that you, as a member of the Shrewsbury Development Corporation, and all other town officials are anxious to bring commercial businesses to town – so am I. But that is no justification for giving businesses substantially discounted water rates at the highest consumption levels relative to residential rates.
1) So Kevin Byrne claims that Scott Brown just pretends to be bi-partisan? This is the same Kevin Byrne who is the most partisan Democrat in Shrewsbury. Nice try, Kevin. 2) Kevin claims that Scott Brown voted no on a jobs bill to put 800,000 folks back to work? And of course, we have Kevin’s assurance that this jobs bill would be different from the $800 Billion stimulus package that promised to create all those permanent jobs, but only added another $800 Billion to the federal deficit. 3) We already have equal pay for equal work in this country. What Kevin and his fellow Democrats want to do is to remove factors like seniority, experience, and on-the-job performance in determining pay. 4) Kevin claims that Scott Brown favors big corporations, Wall Street, etc.? Well, we have all kinds of laws regulating them, including Sarbanes-Oxley, so where is the Justice Dept. of this Democratic administration when it comes to prosecuting the company officials who bankrupted large financial firms or ‘lost’ investors funds? - Sitting on its hands. No Kevin, what we need is enforcement. 5) Kevin claims that some people may be intimidated by Elizabeth Warren? Please, don’t make me laugh! Elizabeth is just another typical intellectual from academia who thinks she is smarter than all the people who live in the real world. The only thing that scares me about Elizabeth is that she will be able to fool enough people to get elected and then be able to advance her redistributionist policies. View Comment
‘Fair and Balanced’ needs to be more accurate in order to live up to the name, e.g. Federal tax rates are almost the highest among developed countries. It’s tax loopholes that reduce Federal tax revenues, and it’s these tax loopholes that Romney says he will eliminate or reduce. … Romney only paid about 15% in federal taxes last year? So what? Tell me – don’t you take advantage of perfectly legal tax loopholes in order to minimize your federal taxes? … The growth in the federal budget deficit ’ballooned primarily due to Bush tax cuts ($5 trillion)’? But that was $5 trillion over 8 years, and Obama ‘accomplished’ the same in less than half the time! And if Obama were serious about the deficit, he could have addressed it in 2009 – 2010 when he had strong majorities in both houses of Congress. … All of the Bush tax cuts are set to expire the end of this year? But almost everyone agrees that they will be retained for everyone except those at the highest income levels. The additional tax collections from this group will not reduce the deficit, and probably will not even significantly reduce the rate of growth in the deficit. … Almost 50% of people do not pay federal INCOME taxes? That does not mean that they all live near or below the poverty level, especially if federal transfer payments are included when determining who is below the poverty level. … The Shrewsbury schools have budget issues in large part because, like every other town in Massachusetts, its leaders had continued to agree to large salary contracts, which were only sustainable as long as the state was able to increase local aid significantly each year. … As for the low property taxes in Shrewsbury, we should not consider increasing the rates until school salaries and benefits have been made to bear the same economic realities as the general population.
Ms. Heske, whether or not Mr. Lowry had kids in the public system is not relevant. If he is a Shrewsbury taxpayer, then he has as much right as you to comment on the school budget. Your comments make it clear that you think a substantial increase in the school budget would solve all the problems. Apart from being wrong, it is simplistic, so I’ll give you some better simplistic solutions to the problems you raise:
1) Problem - 25-30 kids per classroom is overcrowded because staff was cut to meet budget constraints? Solution: Get teachers to forgo all salary increases and moves to the next pay steps in the current school year. Not only would this have saved enough money to retain all staff, but money would have been available for additional purposes, including technology, sports, etc.
2) Problem – Kids with learning difficulties that make it difficult for teachers to teach? Solution: Get the administration to abandon its policy of full inclusion. Get the administration to lobby hard with other school districts about getting the state to pay its proper share of special education costs, instead of just whining about it. Also, reintroduce tracking at the middle schools so that teachers can work with children of more similar abilities within a classroom.
3) Problem – One Principal has to cover two schools? Solution: Tell the administration to move one of the many assistant principals from the middle or high schools.
4) Problem: You evidently think that teachers are not ‘well paid’? Solution: Get the facts, not the selective statistics of the administration, which only compares teacher salaries to other districts. Fact – the average salary and benefits of a Shrewsbury teacher significantly exceed those of the average Shrewsbury taxpayer. They also exceed those of the typical private school.
Simplistic? Perhaps. But my solutions would go a lot further toward solving school funding problems than your solution.
At last night’s public hearing did the Town Manager really mean it when he said words to the effect that encouraging conservation was not a consideration in developing the water rate increases he was currently proposing? So in other words, water conservation is not something all consumers, commercial as well as residential, should be working on continuously – apparently it is only an important consideration when town officials say it is important, and even then only for residential consumers. It would seem that our town officials really do not consider conservation to be all that important. View Comment
The information on water rate increases in this article is incomplete. In addition to the base rate increases mentioned, rate increases are also being recommended at all consumption levels above 5,000 gallons per quarter. If implemented, the typical residential user's bill would increase by more than just the additional $2.00 per quarter for the base rate. View Comment
a) I was not trying to makes any points on revenue - I took the Town Manager at his word when he said he needs additional revenue.
b) Yes, part of my concern was conservation, but conservation for all consumers, commercial and residential. In order to meet state guidelines and encourage residential conservation as well as raise revenue, over the last 10 years residential water rates have more than tripled for consumption above 25,000 gallons. The Town Manager has announced publically that residential accounts have reduced their average consumption levels and now meet state guidelines. Thus residences have already used their flexibility to reduce their consumption. Meanwhile, commercial rates have increased over the last 10 years by only about 40-45%. That sounds as if commercial users have been getting a great bargain.
c) Your comment overlooks the most important point of my article, namely, that the substantially lower rates for commercial users are not equitable. All other factors being equal, strict equity would require commercial users to pay the same rates as residential users for the same consumption levels. My suggestion that commercial rates at higher usage levels be increased to a level sufficient to generate the additional revenues requested by the Town Manager would still leave commercial rates substantially lower than residential rates.
d) Your comments seem to be arguing that the typical business doesn’t overuse water, but that the typical residential user still wastes water, even after all of the recent, dramatic residential water rate increases. Do you have any evidence to support both claims?
e) Protect our non-residential tax base – certainly, but Shrewsbury already does. (For example, we don’t have higher property tax rates for businesses than for homeowners.) But to give businesses preferred rates for a resource that is becoming increasingly dear, that’s just not equitable.
This article reports on comments made at the Board of Selectmen meeting, that, while noteworthy, pale in comparison to another subject that was discussed at the meeting and that will directly affect almost every resident. The subject is another proposed increase in water rates. The news is that there will be a public hearing on this proposal in September. The news is that the Town Manager has already come up with a recommended schedule of increases before getting any public input. When will the Daily Voice report on this subject, including the fact that residential water rates for consumption above 25,000 gallons per quarter are well over twice as much as commercial rates? View Comment
John B keeps asking for the specific cuts in the Ryan budget. Two points: 1) Where are Obama's specific proposals to eliminate annual budget deficits so that the U.S does not become another Greece? and 2) The Ryan budget reduces the RATE OF GROWTH in total federal spending - it does not cut current federal spending levels. View Comment
I don't know anything about Mr. Simonian, but there are plenty of reasons why MA voters should want to make this an anti-incumbent year, including, for starters:
- Reduce the one-party nature of this state and all the waste, corruption, and nepotism that has resulted from it.
- Reduce the dominance of the Boston area politicians who know that all elected Democrats outside the beltway must dance to their tune and accept the scraps thrown to them, or face severe consequences.
- Help stop deceiving the voters with so-called reform bills, such as on pensions, transportation, and food stamp cards, which do not solve the core problems. View Comment
"Kane noted that actually only $300,000 of the $2.4 million came from free cash and the rest from the operating budget." But Mr. Kane knows that if all of that $2.4 Million had not been allocated to the school department, and if none of it was used to increase any municipal department budgets, the entire $2.4 Million would have ended up as an increase in free cash. There it would have been available for next year 's budget cycle, which the selectmen have already acknowledged will also be difficult. View Comment
Lisa’s statements are mostly either exaggerated or plain wrong. 1) Some of the lower cost per pupil is the result of incomplete reporting and of cost reductions in services provided to the schools by municipal departments. And there are other problems with that reported state average. 2) The teachers have indeed received raises the last few years, even the school department’s own exhibits have acknowledged this. 3) She says “They deserve their raises”, but in the current economic environment, most people have seen their incomes stagnate. Why are school teachers immune from economic reality? 4) Class sizes going up? Why aren’t parents demanding that more teacher positions be retained at the expense of administrative and other non-classroom positions?
5) Lisa says that comments like “all we care about is Shrewsbury schools” is not fair, but one can make a good case that a lot of parents believe this. But when parents claim at public meetings that Shrewsbury is balancing its budget on the backs of its children, it is easy to prove that this claim is false just by looking at the growth rates of school vs. municipal spending levels over the last several years. View Comment
BJM asks ‘Why does it seem that it's always the school that's affected and not other town services!?’, and says that ‘it's always the Educational services that have to take a loss when budget negotiations come around’. But the facts contradict both comments. According to Town Manager and Finance Committee reports, over the last 10 years the School Budget line increased from $31.9 Million for FY2003, to the Town Manager’s recommended $49.6 Million for FY2013, an increase of 55%. Over that same time, the General Government total increased from $16.4 Million to $17.5 Million, an increase of only 7%. And only once, in FY2010, was the School Budget line actually reduced from the prior year, and that reduction was offset by Federal stimulus funds.
So BJM has it exactly wrong. Municipal departments have suffered much more from financial constraints than the School Department. You just don’t hear about them because the Town Manager rejects most municipal department requests for increases before they get anywhere. As for the School Budget, it has been reduced - almost never.
Why is there no breakout of the increased kindergarten revenues from fee increases vs. adding two full day kindergarten sections? The fee increases add no costs to the school budget, but adding two more full day kindergarten sections almost assuredly will.
Per-pupil expenditures for regular education students in Shrewsbury are over $7,000 per year. The School Dept. has indicated that these two additional full day kindergarten sections will have about 40 students. On the surface it then appears that the cost of adding these two sections would be $7,000 times 40 times (1/2 day), or $140,000. But the revenues from these 40 full time students would only be 40 times $3,200, or $128,000. The result would then appear to be a net financial detriment to the school budget. The School Dept. should have to explain in detail how it came up with the numbers to justify financially adding two more full day kindergarten sections.
Looked at another way, if adding two more full day kindergarten sections did generate a net financial benefit to the town, wouldn't making all kindergarten classes full day provide an even bigger financial benefit (the space question aside)? But the School Dept. knows that is not true.
Ms. Paluzzi’s reporting is inaccurate. I did not question ‘… why the school budget regularly sees annual increases’. What I said is that the biggest component in annual budget increases is salary increases; that all teachers not at the top step would be receiving annualized salary increases averaging about 7.4% next year; that the school budget presentation tends to minimize this fact by calling attention only to the 2.75% cost of living component; and that continuing these levels of salary increases is not sustainable, certainly not in the current economy.
I also did not question ‘… why federal stimulus funds were used for staffing’. I knew perfectly well that this was required. What I said is that the school department knew for at least two years that the federal stimulus funds were temporary, so it should have planned better in order to avoid the impact of this $1.2 Million loss hitting the budget in one year.
What surprises me most about this article is that it does not mention my statement that annualized salaries increased in several teacher categories over the last nine years by an average of about 7% per year, despite the poor economy and despite claims of salary freezes/cutbacks in recent years. (I would be happy to provide the reporter with my analysis and my source documents from the school department.) Of course school officials don’t want to talk about this, but I believe that readers of thedailyshrewsbury would be very interested in this information.
- Amazing! The school superintendent states with a straight face that the STATE needs to acknowledge the lack of $1.3 million of federal stimulus money for next year's school budget? When will HE acknowledge it? The school department and the School Committee have always known, since the federal stimulus program was initiated three plus years ago, that it was temporary, meant to give states and localities time to reduce their rate of budget increases so that now they would be ready for the loss of federal stimulus money.
- Evidently they have kept their heads in the sand, hoping like the Dickens' character that 'something will turn up'. But the federal funds are gone and the state is unlikely to increase local aid significantly. So naturally they will push for an operating budget override to hide their poor planning and inability to deal with the financial realities of the current poor economy.
- I hope the voters see through this charade. View Comment
Really, 1) Ms. Hogan has to stop with the misleading comments, which are probably part of the reason why voters rejected this project. The 5% she mentions refers to the size. Many other design changes can be made that would reduce the cost while retaining the state grant. And 2) what would be the purpose of the public forums town officials said they would schedule over the next few months to get input on the design, if not to be able to modify it? View Comment