Letter: Spending rises as student numbers plummet

lec taxpayer let graph

To the editor:lec taxpayer let graph

The Wilbur & McMahon School Committee recently conducted two budget workshops for the 2014/2015 school budget.  Disappointingly, the School Committee and administration succumbed to pressure to increase the budget beyond what was originally asked for by Kathy Crowley, school superintendent.  Does this make any sense?  Look at the  graph above.

It shows a precipitous drop in student population while the teacher count essentially stays the same – a slight upward trend in fact.  There is currently a 1st grade class with only nine students and another one with only ten students. Who can say they experienced such a low class size when they went to school?  Most research defines “small class size” as not more than 20 students.

The declining student population is expected to continue as predicted by two professional demographers and by actual experience.

So the teacher count stays the same and the budget goes up?

We don’t know what suddenly got into the School Committee and school administration, but this act is reminiscent of a decade ago when the School Committee and its fraudulent budgets could not be trusted.  “Padding” and “fat” were the words that described those budgets back then.  The new operative word today is “cushion.” This is how a huge surplus built up to over $1 million in the past.  We call it over-taxation.

It should be noted that Joe Quinn and Peg Bugara voted no on the increase while Don Gomez, Dave Beauchemin, and Tom Allder voted yes.  Dave Beauchemin made the motion to increase. They had to take a few moments to figure out where this extra money would go in the budget!  After the vote, Joe Quinn tried to trim some of the “cushion” by proposing that the two first grades of 9 and 10 children should be combined into one class of 19 next year.  He did not even get a second.  He next tried to remove some of the “phantom” students being budgeted for Portsmouth High School (also “cushion”).  No second on that motion either.

Portsmouth charges us $9,428 per student.  Little Compton is now close to $18,000 per student in Wilbur & McMahon.

In good faith, the taxpayers approved a bond of $11.3 million to renovate the school ($16 million when including the loan interest for 20-years of payments).  Now, for that generosity, the School Committee wants even more with a full, unnecessary 4 percent increase. That is truly outrageous!  When is it enough?

The following is a comparison of this year’s class sizes of surrounding towns with those of the Wilbur & McMahon School:

 

  Grades
Town K 1st 2nd
Barrington 27 21 22
East Greenwich 17 20 21
Jamestown 15 14 17
Middletown 21 21 19
Tiverton 21 23 22
Portsmouth 20 21 21
Little Compton 12 11½
  These are average class sizes

 

By its own admission, the school administration agrees that Little Compton’s class sizes are the lowest in the state.  The student/teacher population graph goes a long way toward explaining why that is the case.

There is no question that we have some very good teachers in Little Compton.  We just have too many of them.  There needs to be some staff reductions and the budget needs to go down, not up!  If you go along with blindly increasing the budget, then be prepared for a tax hike next year of around 11 percent.  Five percent will come from the school loan which shows up for the first time.  Four percent will be the town government and school.  Around two 2 percent will come from a request of $250,000 to make the Peckham Lot (current location of the portable classroom modules) a top notch sports field and walking path.

Can people on fixed incomes or low incomes afford this?

The “spend more” crowd does not seem to care.  We urge the Budget Committee to stop this insanity.  Our kids place very high in state testing and leave Wilbur School with a very good education.  We cannot see how throwing all this unnecessary funding into the school will change that.  The electors at the Financial Town Meeting should be prepared to level-fund the schools if the School Committee and Budget Committee don’t .

Board of Directors

Little Compton Taxpayers Association

Roger Lord, Roy Bonner, Robert Hayden, George Crowell, Ralph Watson, Pat Griffin

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