Editorial: Campaign promises? More like empty promises

At the Wednesday, Feb. 13 Board of Finance workshop, the Board of Education presented their budget recommendations. Now comes the hard part. The BOF will consider the proposal and make a budget recommendation to the Town Council. Ultimately, it will be up to the Town Council to wade through the BOE propaganda and finally try to do what’s best for the town in this financial crisis.

Maybe the other boards will be able to find the funding but probably not. Either way, we are willing to bet that the BOF and council will have some serious concerns about the rubber stamped budget, and we urge the BOE to do better at responding to any of their criticism than they did to ours.

This is an election year. It is time for voters to inform themselves about the next two years and ask themselves, who are the best candidates to represent the town over the next term? An important part of that decision is reviewing the job that the current officials did in representing the people that voted them into office (not the teachers; not the students).

Leading up to the 2017 election, we asked every BOE candidate what the most important issue would be over this term in government. Every single one of the elected candidates told the voters—in one way or another—that budget issues were their top priority. These are their words, not ours. (Click the link below)

Meet the 2017 Southington Board of Education candidates

They all promised to be financially responsible then voted unanimously for the two biggest budget increases in more than a decade. With the budget as their top priority, this BOE has rubber stamped whatever amount the superintendent presented without any scrutiny whatsoever into his statistics or what those statistics mean. We already pointed this out in an editorial, and the letter to the editor last week hasn’t changed our opinion one bit. The budget is clearly not their top focus like they promised Southington voters in 2017.

We didn’t base our opinion on their pointless workshops or any of the dog and pony shows leading up to a unanimous vote. We based our opinion on the results.

Fact…On Jan. 4, the superintendent sent the BOE his recommended budget request totaling $100,233,555. On Jan. 24, the board approved the budget for $100,216,856. This was after rolling up their sleeves for 20 days with a pair of workshops and three weeks of due diligence. The BOE’s hard work and focus on finances pared the biggest budget request in town history by just $16,699. How much less would have been cut if the budget wasn’t this team’s top priority?

To recalculate our earlier analogy, it’s like trying to reduce a $100 utility bill with 1.6699 pennies found in the driveway. Their 20 days of work resulted in $834.95 in reductions per day (or $92.77 per BOE member per day). That’s certainly no reason to pat themselves on the back or take a victory lap.

At that pace, it wouldn’t have mattered if the BOE held a workshop every day for a whole year. At $834.95 per day, a year of effort would have resulted in $300K  in reductions, which still wouldn’t have been enough to cover the amount they approved for hiring new staff or even to cover the wage increases they approved for existing staff. It’s irresponsible.

It is our opinion that, if the BOE’s campaign promises were more than just words, the budget should have failed, 9-0, instead of passing, 9-0. It doesn’t matter if they are all about the kids, the teachers, or the voters. They blew it.

To comment on this story or to contact Southington Observer editor John Goralski, email him at JGoralski@SouthingtonObserver.com.

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