May 27, 2009

The Barrington FTM

Carroll Andrew Morse

Bottom line: An approximately 850,000 dollar school budget increase, over what the appropriations committee recommended, passes by a vote of 569-323.

Good evening from the town of Barrington. Voting on several budget resolutions is about to begin...

Two non-controversial "housekeeping" items have so far passed.

300,000 from an unbuilt wind turbine was just moved to the general fund.

Next vote: 3 million to remediate and cap the town's landfills. Resident wants to know if it has to be done this year. Another resident: Is there a real economic benefit to doing this this year? TM believes delay would create financial hardship.

First voice vote tie occurs. Landfill money passes on a stand-up vote.

A million dollars for school roofs passes almost unanimously on a voice vote.

Another million for sidewalk repair passes easily on a voice vote.

Next item: "emergency notes to fund emergency appropriations". Resident wants to know what constitutes an emergency. TM says if we could predict emergencies, we wouldn't have them. Resident not amused by that answer. TM gives example of a sewer that exploded recently. Another official points out a formal procedure for declaring an emergency is contained in the resolution.

Resident proposes a 5 million dollar cap on the emergency note amount. Voice vote tie; amendment fails on a stand-up vote. Overall emergency note item passes on a voice vote.

Resident requests an explanation of the next item, tax-anticipation notes. Finance director explains they are used to cover gaps that occur because of the collection schedule. Also adds that they've never been used. Item passes on a voice vote.

Here comes the school budget. Appropriations Commitee is recommending a 2.21% increase, about 900,000 dollars. That's about half of what the school's management requested. Appropriations Committee hopes that the school system and the teachers union will be able to "renegotiate" a salary structure that will fit into the budget.

Residents now get to offer motions to change the bottom line.

First motion by resident: increase the budget by about 850,000, none of it to go to administrators. Praise for the Barrington schools from the resident and from a school committee member. Another resident objects, citing step increase + annual raises that exceed 5% or more.

Some detailed discussion about specific line items regarding supplies, aides and bus monitors.

Another resident is proud of the Barrington schools, but doesn't believe that the system is so fragile that it cannot survive one year of belt-tightening.

Senator David Bates says that the state is down 70 million for this year alone, based on the May revenue estimating conference. That could impact how much money is received from the state.

Resident asks for examples of belt-tightening that have already occurred. 4 positions were elimated last year.

Resident reads a letter from a retired school teacher, who thinks that the union should negotiate a freeze to get through this budget year, without the additional budget increase.

Resident discusses the macro global economic situation; with social security frozen and 401(k)s tanking, it's not fair to ask taxpayers to fund other people's pay increase.

Resident speaks in favor of increase -- Barrington should pay its teachers well enough so they can live in the town.

Another resident is embarrassed that teachers are paid as low as they are, from a societal standpoint. And is Barrington going to approve 1 million dollars for potholes, but not for the children?

Resident speaks who says he supports teachers, but is concerned that the compensation structure for teachers is top-heavy.

Resident (and state employee) cannot support a budget increase, when so much of the budget goes to salaries and benefits.

Resident argues that the budget needs to be increased, because the Paiva-Weed cap means that future year increases will depend on the baseline that is established this year.

Resident raises concern about pension spiking.

Resident thanks school committee for doing a thankless job under tough conditions.

Resident asks if money from the state or the feds is somehow found, after the budget is approved, will the tax-rate go down? The answer from the finance director is basically no.

Last speaker has spoken. It's time to vote; we're going right to a stand-up vote, counting person-by-person...

Motion passes 569-323. We move now to an additional increase motion, to restore the adminstrator salary increases.

School committee recommends against. Motion fails by voice vote.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

"Resident argues that the budget needs to be increased, because the Paiva-Weed cap means that future year increases will depend on the baseline that is established this year."

So no substantive justification for a maxed out increase (projected increase in enrollment, for example); just, "increase it for the sake of increasing it". Exhibit A that the Paiva-Weed cap should have been one percent. There will always be someone who will go for the max "just because we can".

(Good coverage, Andrew.)

Posted by: Monique at May 27, 2009 10:20 PM

"Resident argues that the budget needs to be increased, because the Paiva-Weed cap means that future year increases will depend on the baseline that is established this year."

This is a legitimate concern and the results are predictable. I have suggested that communities be allowed to "bank" the difference between the maximum allowable increase and what a town decides as a final budget. This amount could be tapped in the future if the town approved it without going to a Caruolo action.

This encourages towns to be frugal without backing into a corner should the need arise in a future year. Seems like a sensible addition to the law.

Posted by: Harvey Waxman at May 28, 2009 7:38 AM

Dear TCC:

This is a preview of next year's Tiverton Financial Town Meeting. Two can play the "get the vote out" game.

Posted by: Community at May 29, 2009 9:51 AM


Instead of just worrying about the size of the budget, shouldn't you also be worried that Tiverton spends about $1,000 more per-pupil than Barrington, yet has only about 1/3 as many students proficient in 11th grade math?

Posted by: Andrew at May 29, 2009 11:18 AM


I am worried about it.

But I don't see how slashing the budget by some arbitrary amount on the floor of the financial town meeting in order to satisfy some urge to "send a message that we just won't stand for it anymore" is a helpful response to the real problem you have identified.

Posted by: Community at May 29, 2009 12:50 PM


Do you think the fact that 53% of Barrington adults over 25 have a bachelor's degree or more education as compared to just 24% in Tiverton has anything to do with it?

Posted by: Community at May 29, 2009 1:01 PM

How does that explain why Tiverton has one of the worst ratios of math proficiency to reading proficiency in the state?

Posted by: Andrew at May 29, 2009 1:13 PM

Let me guess. . . . bad math teachers?

Even if you could prove that instead of just guessing, is that why the financial town meeting came out the way it did, to send the school administrators the signal to improve the math department? I didn't hear the word math mentioned once at the meeting -- although I did witness a lot of folks who seemed to be having trouble adding and subtracting.

Posted by: Community at May 29, 2009 2:08 PM

Community, the point is, why have Tiverton's elected officials spent so much (public) money all these years and not gotten better results for the children?

Posted by: Monique at May 29, 2009 10:43 PM
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