Over the past few weeks, many of my friends and neighbors have asked good questions about this Tuesday’s override vote. I wanted to share some of those with you in the hopes that it will help you to vote “Yes” when the polls open at the Field House on Tuesday.
But before I do I want to address two items that appeared in the local newspaper recently. In one letter to the editor, a resident said he said was tired of supporting “assistants to assistants” in the schools. There is no such thing. This belief represents baseless ignorance. Franklin spends far below the state average on administration in our schools. In fact, we spend below the state average in every category of school investment.
Another prominent resident claimed that citizens are afraid to express their views about the override for fear that their children would be punished in the schools. This is either an outrageous lie or a convenient rationalization. I have been active in the schools since 1998, and I have been involved in every override since. I have never ever heard of a single such incident. I have never even heard a rumor of such an incident. The resident who made this statement owes our schools either the proof to support the claim or a candid apology.
And now for some of the thoughtful questions that I have heard in my travels…
What is the relationship between the override vote and the planned renovation of Franklin High? There is none. The override would deliver an additional $3 million to the town’s operating budget, including $1.8 million for the schools. The override is designed to close a revenue shortfall. The FHS renovation is a capital project. Later in 2011, voters will be asked to give the town permission to borrow money for the work, like a mortgage. The state will reimburse approximately half the cost for the FHS project, and the cost of the borrowing will not show up on tax bills for three or four years.
Where’s the proof that the schools need these funds? Things seem fine? The Franklin schools are indeed high performing and tremendously efficient. That’s exactly why you should support the override as an investment. The lack of financial support for the schools is like termites living undetected in a house. The truth is that we have eliminated 100 teachers and seven administrators in the past five years. Class sizes have gone up. Kids with learning challenges are getting less personal attention. Teachers are getting less professional development. New fees have been created and existing fees have gone up. Our hardworking school employees are doing their best to hold back the tide, but the odds are against them over time unless we help now.
I am senior citizen on a fixed income. I can’t afford this, and why should I support the schools? My kids are grown and gone. The number one investment for any citizen of Franklin, young or old, is their home. And the best way to protect and strengthen the value of your home is to protect the quality of services in your community – police, fire, schools, public works, etc. If you are a senior, think about how the community helped pay for the public education your children received. Think about what will happen to the value of your home if the quality of services here continues to suffer from lack of investment.
Is there any guarantee that the Town Council will deliver $1.8 million from the override amount to the schools? Yes, their word. The council is publicly committed to that amount for the next two years. As you know, many councilors are actively campaigning for the override. There is no legal way to guarantee what happens when a new council takes office in two years, but history shows that the schools have received tremendous support from the Council. With the exception of one year when state aid was delivered late, well into the fiscal year, the schools have always received all of the state funds designated for education, as well as substantial revenues from property taxes..
Why should I add to my property taxes? Doesn’t it just make more sense to pay more in fees? Your property taxes are tax deductible. Fees are not. On a pre-tax basis, the proposed override will cost the average taxpayer $254 per year, about 70 cents per day, based on the average property assessment of $368,000 in Franklin. Passage of the ballot question would add 69 cents to the tax rate, or $.69 per $1,000 of the assessed value of your home. If the override fails, some athletic fees will increase more than the average annual tax cost of the override!
Where can I get more information about the override?
An excellent brochure has been developed that attempts to answer common questions and provides a chart of what services will be affected by the outcome of the override vote. You can view and download the brochure at: http://franklinschoolcommittee.wordpress.com/override-brochure/
Up-to-date information and links on financial and academic issues, particularly from a school perspective, are available at: http://franklinschoolcommittee.wordpress.com/override-page/
Concerned citizens who support passage of the override have formed a group called “Invest in Franklin.” You can visit the Invest in Franklin web site for additional information at: http://investinfranklin.weebly.com.
You can visit and join the Invest in Franklin group page on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2265200218&ref=ts
A Facebook event page has been created as a reminder about the June 8 vote. You can view it here: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/event.php?eid=118040221563289
My personal view is that Tuesday offers you a modest opportunity to invest in your community. No one agrees with every decision the town makes, but I am convinced, based on my years of involvement in town government and the schools, that Franklin is exceptionally well run, well intentioned and very efficient. Franklin lives within its means, provides a great quality of life, and does what it needs to maintain public property.
The outcome of this override has implications for all the essential services on which you and your family rely. In my mind, a “Yes” vote represents a well-deserved, very modest investment in the schools, police, fire, public works and library services that support my family, my friends and neighbors, and my property value.
Your town and schools need your help. I hope you will join me in supporting the override. Every vote is needed. Passage is by no means certain. Please do your civic duty on Tuesday and encourage all of your fellow citizens to do the same.
This e-mail reflects my opinion alone and is provided as a constituent service. Be on the look-out for an update soon on the great progress being made around the FHS renovation project.
As always, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions. If you are receiving duplicate e-mails or if you no longer wish to receive these e-mails, please let me know and I will remove you from the distribution list. If you know of someone you would like to add to the list, please send along their e-mail address.
Ed Cafasso, Member
Franklin School Committee