To the Editor:
While much attention will be focused at town hall tonight for the Town Council's public input session on the potential sale of the old elementary schools, Tiverton should be equally concerned about the School Committee's scheduling of a ratification of a new three-year teachers' contract. On a recent Friday summer afternoon, the School Committee quietly posted on short notice a special meeting last week to pave the way for their vote tonight.
Tiverton Citizens for Change is deeply concerned that, once again, Superintendent Bill Rearick is using incomplete and inaccurate data to advance increased budgets at the expense of hardworking taxpayers of Tiverton. The school department's fiscal impact statement, required by law, shows an increase in costs due to the contract of about $750,000 and ignores the effect of year two increases compounding in year three, purposely understating these significant pay raises by about $350,000. It ignores the rising costs of health insurance which the pending 3-year contract fails to address. The school’s health insurance budget exceeds $3 million, so compounding increases over three years (using the school's own assumption of 9 percent growth) is close to $1 million. The fiscal impact statement also ignores teacher step raises which are about $200-300K over 3 years.
All told, the true cost of this contract appears to be between $2-3 million, but it is hard to tell. Rearick’s press release states that the cost of this contract will average $250,000 per year, or less than 1% of their budget. If this expensive contract is forced through tonight, TCC will hold Mr. Rearick to his word and will expect budget requests of less than 1% in the coming years.
This is the same School Committee that sued Tiverton for over $600,000 in funds never approved by the voters to come from local taxpayers, and at the recent Financial Town Referendum, used their entire portfolio of familiar scare tactics aimed at students and parents alike, threatening to cut sports, music, and even close schools if their entire budget demand of $1,000,000 was not passed. Their efforts to demonize this writer are well documented, and those efforts were well orchestrated through every means at their disposal.
Now flush with new funds after using school children as messengers for political purposes, the first thing the School Committee apparently will do is fund more compensation increases for adults and hide its true cost. What happens at next years FTR when taxpayers don’t approve more big increases in the schools budget? A repeat of the well worn scare tactics is not hard to imagine.
Tiverton Citizens for Change calls on the School Committee to delay this vote until, at a minimum, it publishes a complete and accurate fiscal impact statement and, rather than schedule special meetings to line up votes on a night when all interested citizens can attend their meeting.
With only 5 committee meetings left until the November election, Better yet, this School Committee should not act rashly. In 2008, the School Committee did the right thing by waiting for the election to vote on a $20 million contract. This School Committee should do the same.
The people making this vote may not be in office at the time of the next financial town referendum, and we have reason to believe that others on the ballot will not make the same budgeting decisions that we've seen in the past. What the current school committee should keep in mind is that, no matter who is in office at the time, the people of Tiverton will be reminded again and again of the names of the people responsible for their anxiety and suffering: Jan Bergandy, Deborah Pallasch, Carol Herrmann, and Sally Black. You have a responsibility to the students and you have a responsibility to the town. Honor it.
President Tiverton Citizens for Change
David Nelson is also a member of the Tiverton Town Council and will seek reelection in November.