No more mystery from “the responsible center”

It’s time to fess up about the mystery cuts that the town council seems to believe could salvage the Board of Education budget.

So far, we’re getting mere hints and assurances that the $1.5 million the schools need can be found without wiping out Quest, slashing sports, eliminating the extra help our most troubled schools need and so on.

Sorry, but that’s not enough.

The school board has a terrifying list of proposed cuts that would drastically impact the lives on many students, leaving some of them cut off from the extra assistance they need to achieve their potential.

That’s not my idea of “the responsible center,” as the mayor put it to reporters yesterday.

What’s most frustrating is that all we’re hearing from town officials is that we should trust them.

Well, I had a professor once who told us that every time you hear someone in a movie say “trust me” you can bet your life that anyone who puts his faith in those words is going to face a heap o’ hurt.

So permit me to remain skeptical.

I want details.

The schools have told us what they think it takes to save so much money. What are the alternatives?

Here’s what we’ve been hearing so far from officials who may know some answers:

Mayor Scott Slifka told the Courant yesterday that “the council has believed from day one and we still believe that additional administrative savings can be found that will not impact the classrooms.”

“Those ideas may not be on the board list yet, but I’m very encouraged by the fact that the town and board staff have been working together to reach consensus on those issues. And I think that we should all take a deep breath and continue working on this for the benefit of the kids and the taxpayers,” Slifka told the paper.

Former Lt. Gov. Kevin Sullivan, whose commitment to education can’t be second-guessed after all these years, assures us in a comment on another entry that the school board needs to look “for cuts last in what goes on directly in the classroom and first at exhausting every other possible way to reduce expenditures (including ideas that the town administration has been pointing out to the school administration for awhile now.)”

Another fine politician, Chuck Coursey, also assures us in a comment elsewhere on this blog that the town council “believes that there are additional savings in the Board budget that can be achieved without impacting the classroom. I’m pleased that the Town and Board Administration are working together to identify and reach consensus on those areas.”

Slifka told the Courant, as its reporters paraphrased the comments, “that many of the ideas that led to those cuts – such as trimming administrative costs – have been under discussion for a long time.”

“The council is attempting to balance the need to continue investing in the schools, which we are doing, with the significant fiscal impact on the community as a whole. It’s a very difficult balance,” the mayor told the paper.
“The council is in the middle. The board says it’s not enough; the taxpayers contend it remains too high. And the council is right in the middle – the responsible center. It represents that we are trying to balance the competing needs of the community,” Slifka said, according to the Courant.

One final thought: it’s insulting that Slifka more or less says the Board of Education is not in “the responsible center.”

It’s not the job of the town council to plunk itself down in the middle somewhere between what schools need and what self-styled taxpayer advocates urge. It’s the job of our elected leaders to fight for what’s right and to hold down spending to no more than what’s needed.

But what’s needed is what must be allocated, whatever the threats from those who want to pay less. If we’re going to have to defend a budget from tax fanatics, we want a spending plan that doesn’t leave our school system lagging behind.




Filed under budget, Chuck Coursey, education, Kevin Sullivan, News, Property taxes, referendum, Schools, Scott Slifka, Taxes, town council, West Hartford

4 responses to “No more mystery from “the responsible center”

  1. Kevin Sullivan

    The Town Council has an additional hurdle in working with the school budget. Tempting as it might be, the fiscal authority has no line item or program authority for the school system. And, difficult as it may be, they cannot begin down the slippery slope of telling the Board of Education where to revise its budget other than a lower bottom line this time in light on the townwide revaluation hit. Fortunately, school fiscal staff seem to be finally talking to town fiscal staff. Too bad the Superintendent could not wait a bit for those conversations to bear results before trotting out the usual scary list of budget suspects. By the way, the “communication” problem is much more of a town-gown disconnect typical of the very different nature of town councils (fiscally independent and more policymaking) and school boards (fiscally dependent and more policy implementing) rather than being unique to our town. It’s always there but really gets in the way at tough times like this.

  2. Sean McCann

    I couldn’t agree more. If the quote accurately reflects what Slifka said, it’s very disappointing indeed. The taxpayers association does not equal the taxpayers, and the council and the mayor have greater responsibilities than bending to loud mouths and demagogues. They need to exercise some leadership here and start defending the mission of our public schools.

  3. Sean McCann

    Sorry. My comment was to WH dad’s post.

  4. Joe Visconti

    Kevin is right on the money regarding the Superintendent’s jumping the gun with scare tactics.
    The sky is not falling, but it might get stormy if we all don’t start down the road of getting fully funded from the State of CT.
    Why pray tell are the Teachers not engaging the State over this as well as their pension funding?
    It’s time to stop playing politics with Education and get down to business. We need a 10 year plan for Education Spending so we know where we stand.

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