March 12, 2012
Everything going on in Woonsocket sounds so familiar that I had to check back in Anchor Rising's archives for the city. It's worth scrolling down to the summer of 2009; very instructive. First observation, from a liveblog of a school committee meeting (most of which I missed):
I've got to say that the casual atmosphere, here, is almost disconcerting. As I drove in, the lazy summer evening feel of the streets brought to mind the degree to which most residents are oblivious to the actions of their local, state, and even national government representatives. Given the points of levity, it's almost as if that mood has infiltrated even the bodies that those representatives populate.
At the time, the district was cutting everything and seeking 40 furlough days from teachers. Peruse the surrounding posts, and you'll see that the district's teachers had enjoyed unabated raises since at least the turn of the millennium, and the budget problem could have been solved with a 13-14% reduction in pay. But then, fast forwarding through a bunch of Caruolo noise, we get to this very familiar-sounding item:
There's a $6.9 million difference between the School Committee and the City Council over how much to spend on schools in this fiscal year; it jumps to $10.6 million when the 2008-09 deficit is added in. The reconciliation of those numbers is set to start Wednesday at a joint budget workshop session between the committee and the City Council.
Essentially, the school committee plugged its 2009 hole with 2010 money, and the town council, which legal precedent leaves with no authority to stop that from being done, acknowledged as much and agreed to move on to the next budget. The downside is that even the school committee's impossible plan for the next year will come up 62% shy of the budget gap. With the teachers' union digging in, the school committee surely expects the money to be found, somewhere, and that somewhere would have to be the town's taxpayers.
Of course, we all know that the Magic Obama ARRA Money came in shortly after, and although I lost track of its impact on Woonsocket, at the time, I can't shake the feeling that we're really only seeing the fruits of hole-plugging with the blind hope of a rapid economic recovery unrealized.
As if to deliberately emphasize the point: closing the schools in April would be roughly equivalent to the 40 furlough days that the School Committee was seeking back then.