The Westerly Sun - February 9th, 2023: How do you "cut" your way to the largest budget in Chariho history
Check this video out starting at the 40 minute mark...
January 26, 2023
Dear Members of the Chariho School Committee,
I realize that because I'm emailing all of you, you cannot respond. However, as we on the precipice of yet another budget cliffhanger, I feel compelled to write to you about the teacher contract negotiation process.
Last summer, I had an extended conversation with Ryan Callahan about this topic as he was my SC representative serving on the teacher contract subcommittee. I expressed to him that in light of the taxpayers rejecting 2 budgets, and seeing that there were so many new candidates for School Committee, and the makeup of this committee would, in fact, be changing come the fall, the existing school committee should 1. delay the contract negotiations until a new SC was seated; 2. eventually negotiate a 1-year contract until the department could get a handle on spending. His response "what do we offer them as this is 'collective' bargaining. I knew right then and there from that statement that this was a misguided mindset going in to teacher contract negotiations and that he needed a serious mindset shift. (a lesson my 10-year son is learning in school). The taxpayers to my knowledge have not pushed back on a school budget since 2013 (besides 2022). The fixed costs of the budget includes 83% of the budget or about $45 million - which is the elephant in the room. It is completely irresponsible of this body to ratify another 3-year contract in the absense of a 3-year budget forecast.
My sincere question to you is - who respresents the taxpayers during these negotiations? We can't just add millions in the budget in fixed costs without any consideration to what the taxpayers can bare. It's completely fiscally and morally irresponsible of you as a body to approve another 3-year contract in light of the current economic climate and in response to the taxpayers decisions last year where they rejected 2 budgets. By passing a 3-year contract without a long-term budget plan to me demonstrates that you continue to feel that the taxpayers will roll over and pay. I submit to you that they will not.
Finally, in the future, I would suggest that members of the negotiating team for the schools include attorneys and representatives who have no bias (i.e. they aren't teachers or former teachers or former school administrators) but are repreentatives who continually ask this question during these negotiations - WHAT WILL THE TAXPAYERS ACCEPT?" - because after all WE pay the bills.
Contrary to the rhetoric and propaganda pushed by the "Friends of Chariho" in the community, I am not out to "destroy the schools". I realize that a strong community = strong schools. That's why I moved here in the first place. But we can't just sit by while the NEA shark negotiators for the teachers force our community to pay bills that are unsustainable. Plain and simple.
I am always willing to come together to have a civil conversation with anyone who wants to talk about this. We are a community after all and should be able to come together, express our views and not be heckled and ridiculed. Note to self: heckling and ridiculing solves nothing and actually empowers the taxpayers to dig their heels in.
You have a serious choice to make regarding this teacher contact. I hope you make the only choice that is sensible and financially responsible at this very moment. And, frankly, I don't care if the contract is 99% completed. Which School Committee members are going to be the brave 1% that says "we just can't do this right now.?"
I thank you ALL for your service. This is really hard work and I appreciate your willingness to listen.
I'm sharing my letter to the editor that was published in the Westerly Sun this week.
Chariho Teachers Deserve our Respect…..So do the Taxpayers Who Pay the Bills
As a parent whose child attended Richmond Elementary School from K-3, I witnessed the love, dedication and professionalism of Chariho teachers and teaching support staff. There is no question, we are blessed with an amazing community of teachers and professionals.
Last year, the school budget process opened my eyes to the following reality – The School Department has a habit of overbudgeting and underspending, ending the year with budget surpluses, putting money aside for the “fund balance”, and then asking the taxpayers for more money. Simultaneously, multi-year teacher contracts are passed without any regard to what the taxpayer can afford. In teacher contract negotiations – WHO REPRESENTS THE TAXPAYERS? No one! Contracts are passed and those costs automatically go into a “fixed cost” line. Wait, what? Therein, lies the problem and is the $45 million elephant in the room.
Fixed costs of salaries and benefits equal 83% of the school budget. During these significant economic challenges, we should not be approving a 3-year teacher contract UNTIL a 3-year budget forecast is completed which includes provisions for school consolidation, school choice, vendor contract renegotiation, and a push for relief on burdensome state mandates that can’t be funded locally. Moreover, the Chariho Act must be amended to allow for ONE opportunity for the school budget to be passed by the voters – not 3. There is no incentive for the school department to offer the taxpayers their most fiscally responsible budget when they have 3 attempts to get their budget passed. This process is completely rigged against the taxpayers.
The taxpayers are not unlimited ATM machines. We are members of this community who deserve respect. We are not “irrelevant noise” as described by an outgoing school committee member. We deserve to see a realistic 3-year budget plan that is affordable and reasonable and includes shared sacrifices for everyone.
If you are a taxpayer who feels unappreciated, you now have a voice with the Forgotten Taxpayers PAC ([www.forgottentaxpayers.com](https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forgottentaxpayers.com%2F%3Ffbclid%3DIwAR3h4HkgUQe-1ov3N3Q9k8kFDUK6IMicPmCakl296ZfkuVDEORtr64uUNLY&h=AT09Y7lBPPmRC2MbPRctzvmYKdJlATWXr1XtiNlcPJiy4Da3MtYL4MV_7DT3HzFEdBeuzufqDY1twj1esb3rC9JhQ9d2aCKYdh2AXkgYojdnCSaD4iXSsQvgf1A85pZNPjkjET6gsaVsBELQdZWd&__tn__=-UK-R&c=AT0i8ed_7OQfuGIcNZSb6RwNfNqmqXlm0Csti25_Vl8LGwJvvw7Fa3Ie7I6xVq6HqlsW_eF8of_XTGoZjichtFTCR31cg8YtosJMt2IyuO57GdooogqzOTWbMyOJ2Q)). Our mission is to lead grassroots efforts to champion and promote fiscal responsibility, keeping the taxpayers at the forefront of all decisions relative to town and school spending. Taxpayers - you now have a voice! Join us. For more information, email