April fools!

I crack myself up.

Anyway, we’ve come to the busy time of year in town government.  Town meeting is just over a month away, election season officially is upon us, and budget and warrant review are under away.  And, of course, the ongoing issues with the Grafton Teachers’ Association are… ongoing.   There is a lot of information for Grafton families to absorb, and some of the information floating around on the interwebs continues to be false, or at least deeply misleading.  With so much going on, I want to touch on a few things with this post.

  • Last night, on their Facebook page, the GTA again posted false and misleading information. The GTA claims that there will be more money for schools next year than was previously believed because health insurance only will increase 3.8% under the GIC next year, instead of a previously estimated 6.5% which would have cost the schools $260,000 out of their budget.

This information is misleading.  The GIC will only increase by 3.8% next year, but that’s a statewide figure.  Due to issues that are particular to Grafton and the plans our members have chosen, the figure is higher.  In fact, the schools will not get more money.  They’ll actually get even less than anticipated.  Their nut now is anticipated to be $344,000.

  • But wait there’s more! As a result of these increases, the Town Administrator today informed the Finance Committee that, if we pass the budget as presently constituted, we only will have $143,145 in levy capacity.  So, the idea that we could cover the school-side health cost increases with levy capacity, an idea tossed around on the recent Tri-Comm meeting with the School Committee and the Board of Selectmen, seems far-fetched.
  • Also, if the budget passes as proposed, the town only will have about $528,000 in free-cash. “Free cash” isn’t free.  It’s just the money that gets left over from whatever isn’t spent at the end of a budget cycle.  It goes into a town account and is used for one-time expenses like capital items.  We typically have over $2 million in free cash.  Not anymore.
  • For the record, I didn’t use “vulgar” language on the GTA’s Facebook page. I did, however, call them idiots after they attempted to cyber-bully me by posting my contact information among other things.  Did I lose my cool?    Sure. But you try getting cyber-bullied by teachers and tell me how you react.  Idiot is likely the kindest word you’d use.
  • Yes, the teachers received 0% COLA for four out of 8 years. But that’s because they specifically negotiated for that money to be included in step and lane increases.  Why do this?  So you can direct what little money there is for raises to more experienced teachers rather than spread it around through COLA.
  • I didn’t say that the last offer was 3.1, 3, 3, again as represented on their Facebook page. I don’t know where they’re getting that.  But who knows where they get anything, really.  I mean, I literally cut and pasted their own offer that they posted on their Facebook page here.  What is wrong with these people?
  • While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, no one is entitled to their own facts. Math is math.  The GTA again doubled down on their claim that administrators are seeing “huge” salary increases yearly.  That’s simply not the case.   They continue to add two years-worth of percentage increases and are calling them annual.

What’s alarming about this isn’t just the lie, or the fact that they continue to repeat it.  What’s alarming to me is that the people doing this are teachers.  Frankly, I’m getting concerned as a parent.   I really don’t want whomever is in charge of that Facebook page teaching my kids.

  • The GTA also claimed that Dan Gale’s comparative rank chart inappropriately compared Grafton’s step 2 pay scale to other towns’ step 1. This was done, however, because Grafton doesn’t hire people at step 1 anymore in an attempt to be more competitive.  So, our step 2 is effectively our step 1.
  • With the numbers as they are, it certainly is looking as though it will be FY19, and not FY20, that will be our time of reckoning.
  • Quite a few people have asked why I keep this blog, and why I bother going toe-to-toe with the union. There are a couple good reasons: First, this all started for me when I heard them start telling people that the 2014 override was meant for raises.  It wasn’t.  The simple act of pointing that out, and pointing out that the School Committee’s last offer was a good one, got me a deluge of on-line harassment, including one GTA member taking on the handle, “Edsadick” on the Grafton News website.  Second, and most importantly, this is just the right thing to do.  Standing up to bullies is the right thing to do. Correcting lies is the right thing to do.  Getting people to act collectively rather than selfishly is the right thing to do.  It amazes me how many people wonder why I would choose to care about these things.
  • And then there’s this: for the past few years, I’ve known 2020 was going to look grim.  I tried running for Selectman last year to do something about it.  I failed.  I joined FinComm because I knew that before the town went back to the public for more money, we would have to show voters that we were doing everything in our power to control costs.  But now here comes the GTA, shooting first and asking questions later, claiming that the override money was for their raises.

Do you know what’s going to happen next year or in two years when another override is proposed just to keep the wheels from coming off of the bus?  Voters will say, “I don’t want to pass an override to give you a raise.”  And we’ll say, “No no.  The money isn’t for raises, it’s to maintain our town.”  And they’ll say – correctly – “HA! Fool me once.  You said that last time.  Which makes you all a bunch of liars.”

It was important to me to do the hard work of getting our finances in order and maybe campaign for another override because my kids are young and in the school system.  But the GTA has blown that plan all to hell.  Thanks, guys.  Solid work.

  • People have asked about commercial growth and what we’re doing to promote business development in Grafton. That’s a longer post and it’s coming.  I can tell you, though, that there are people in town working hard at that, and we’re doing more than maybe we have in the past.  But, best case scenario, it’s going to be years before we experience the kind of returns that we’d need to forestall armageddon.
  • In part to address cost concerns, the Town Administrator has capped town-side salary increases at 2% wherever possible.
  • Bruce Spinney has my vote for Selectman. Teri Turgeon has my vote for School Committee.
  • Finally, I do want to thank the School Committee for their continued service. I’ve been dealing with this GTA nonsense for three months.  You’ve been dealing with these shenanigans for a year.  You all deserve better.

5 Comments

  1. When the budget is so tight and bleak and the school is laying off to cover the rise in health insurance than why are we even entertaining the cost of a library at town meeting in May. Shrewsbury did it and it’s a monster cost to maintain?

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    1. That’s a great question. The TA told the Nelson Trustees that even he doesn’t support it. So either he tells every audience what they want to hear or it’s a bad idea, you pick

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  2. I’d like to see actual figures as to how many more people have walked through the front doors of the Grafton Public Library over the last 10 years to warrant the cost associated with this addition/renovation.

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    1. Here are the numbers of library visitors for the past four fiscal years. I’m putting together a spreadsheet of this and other library usage data, and the library director said she’ll give me a few more years of data in the next few days. I’ll post again and link to that spreadsheet when it’s ready.

      Library Visitors:
      FY13 47,367
      FY14 64,377 +35.91%
      FY15 73,657 +14.42%
      FY16 82,633 +12.19%

      Note: The huge increase from FY13 to FY14 is partly due to the fact that the library was renovated during FY13 to bring it into minimal ADA compliance, and avoid a four-figure daily fine (I can’t remember if it was $1000 or $2000 total) and thus was operating out of the Municipal Center with limited services for 45 days, and went 60 days without Children’s Services. There will be more context for this when I get the data for earlier years.

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      1. Ugh, I hate wordpress. That looked nice and readable before I posted it. Let’s see if this comes out nicer…

        Library Visitors:
        FY13 – 47,367
        FY14 – 64,377 (+35.91%)
        FY15 – 73,657 (+14.42%)
        FY16 – 82,633 (+12.19%)

        Like

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