Letter: Speaking in support of Region 16’s budget increase

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To the editor,

I attended the majority of this year’s Region 16 budget workshops. I was very impressed that the initial proposal represented but a 2.7 percent increase, a far cry from some earlier years where it started north of 7 percent and contained copious amounts of low-hanging, easily pruned fruit intended to provide the appearance of diligent cost cutting. At the end of the day, this year’s budget came in with a net increase of $796,506 or just 2 percent; a process that proved to be very transparent and resulted in an honest bottom line. I believe there were several contributing factors including: an innovative superintendent, a cost conscious BOE team, the expanded use of technology to decrease operational costs, the combining of two older buildings into one more efficient space and the overdue alignment of staffing levels to reflect a cumulative 15 percent decrease in student enrollment. Those last two cost components are by definition one-time in nature and will be difficult to replicate in future budgets.

I’m a hard-line fiscal conservative who attended St. Mary’s School in Waterbury, where I received a great education even with 40 kids in each classroom, and so it does cause me to wonder how we got to where we are today relative to the overall cost of education. Being on the “shady side” of 60 and with all that entails, I can appreciate the negative impact this has on everyone’s property taxes, especially on the folks from my generation. However, it is important to understand who is responsible for that, and I assure you that while they may be convenient targets, it’s not Region 16’s management team or your local Board of Education.

All across Connecticut the deck is heavily stacked against the local taxpayer. First off, there is the relentless upward wage pressure from organized labor; a group that enjoys a symbiotic relationship with the well entrenched liberal legislature in Hartford. It is that group of career politicians that we also have to thank for binding arbitration, behind closed door negotiations, unfunded mandates, statutes that eliminate even the possibility of a school budget ever being decreased, and the state’s perennial underfunding of the cost of K-12 education. All these factors combine to dramatically escalate the cost of education and to shift the responsibility to pay for it onto the backs of the local property owners.

I agree with you in believing that your property taxes are too high, but the cause lies primarily outside of the BOE’s scope of authority, and voting against this budget would really do nothing to address that. If you truly want to improve the way the whole process works, be more selective about the people you choose to represent you in Hartford, as that’s where the battle for lower taxes has to be waged. Until then, I’m encouraging everyone in Prospect and Beacon Falls to join me in supporting this year’s Region 16 budget; as I am 100 percent convinced that these monies are well invested.

Thomas Galvin

Prospect

The writer is the chairman of the Prospect Town Council.