Okay Tolland, let’s talk budget!
Ugh, I know, it’s the same every year: those crazy education supporters who think we can just raise the budget every year and then don’t show up at the polls; the staunch “no” voters who will come out to vote no even on a 0% increase. The Superintendent who drowns us in numbers every year hoping the public will understand the bind he’s in and the services he’s trying to provide. The Town Manager telling us that what number he thinks will pass at referendum; telling us what “we can afford” based on his expert analysis. The 16 volunteers on the Town Council and Board of Education with varying levels of expertise trying to take it all in and make “good” decisions, usually through whatever lens they brought to the table with them.
How can we get off this merry-go-round?! What would substantive, respectful conversation about the real problems look like? Can't we address the real problem of costs outpacing revenues without demeaning our neighbors and employees of Tolland? There are consequences for cutting to a number without truly vetting the cost of doing so. Granted, many factors influence a municipal budget... far too many of them are outside the influence of local officials. I will raise some of those factors in future posts. Today, I want to pose some questions about Cost and Value whose answers are difficult to quantify and therefore get short shrift in our debate.
- What is the cost of failing to develop young readers in the early grades?
- What is the value of having a well-trained, at-the-ready, Fire Department?
- What is the cost of having town and school employees who consistently hear the message that we have faith that they will continue to deliver --- even when we fail to provide appropriate resources for them to do so? Is that supposed to be compliment?
- What is the value of co-curricular activities in a student’s education? What was their value to you when you were in school?
- What is the cost of failing to wisely and consistently invest in technology? building maintenance? affordable housing? open space? training of elected officials?
- What is the value of raising a generation of critical thinkers and innovators and engaging them in a complete, well-rounded education that allows them to develop those skills?
- What is the cost of elevating affordability as a priority over property value? How can we maintain both?
- What is the value of developing a budget in an environment where we can talk about substance as well as numbers?
- What is the cost of raising a generation of children whose public role models stake out positions at the extremes and are never seen developing consensus, compromising, or sacrificing for the greater good?
Okay, Tolland, let's talk about the kind of community that we want to be.