The following are my decidedly uninspiring thoughts after tonight’s joint Board of Selectmen/Finance Committee/School Cmmittee meeting:
No one likes the I-told-you-so guy.
But since when do I care what people think? I told you so. I told you we’d be facing deficits in FY20, and that a magical $1,000,000 in new growth for FY 20 was unlikely to appear. I told you this. And I was told that I didn’t understand how we do budgeting. I was accused of being dramatic. I, literally, was laughed at. In fact, I think I remember this whole dust-up where voices were raised and I was yelled at when I questioned where the $1M was coming from. Remember that? Good times.
And tonight, with all our cards laid bare on the table for all to see and next year’s deficit (pending cuts) staring us square in the face, I was accused of grandstanding when I pointed out that I called this and we could have been on top of it a year ago. I was told, faceciously, that I was just smarter than everyone else (and at this point, what do you even say to that? Sorry?).
And you know why I pointed out that I called it? I don’t care what anyone says, man, YesGrafton 2014 was a lot of work, and I did a lot of that work. So did Bruce Spinney, Laura Often, Peter Carlson, Maureen Cohen, Jenn Connelly, and many others. But not so many others that you’d confuse the current members of the Board of Selectmen, who think it’ll all work out fine in 2020, of being huge supporters.
And since that time, what’s happened? Let’s recap: we were told that we were in great financial shape; we emphasized our bond rating; we reminded people how crappy it really used to be; we compared ourselves to Northbridge; and we suggested we’d “figure it out.”
So now here we are again. And what changed since last year, when we had the exact same TriComm conversation? Well, not much, frankly. We have a new-found emphasis on commercial growth, but even with a $200 million dollar UPS facility planned for North Grafton in the coming years, we’re still going to be short.
So, now we’re left with one of two choices, or so I’m told: 1. Vote for an override; or 2. make cuts.
And you know what? Despite my steadfast support for schools, and the attendance of my own three children there, I’m honestly on the fence. And I’ll tell you why.
First, can anyone honestly tell me that if we pass another override that we won’t then run around claiming we “solved” the problem again? The 2014 override didn’t solve ANYTHING. It papered over our structural deficit (google it) and kicked the can down the road.
Second, do you remember “Edsadick”? I do. I remember people telling me that the 2014 override was for teacher raises. Will we have short memories again once another override passes and we all move on to other things? The next teacher contract negotiations start in the coming year.
And, most importantly, tonight I asked Tim McInerney and Jay Cummings if there was anything that they would change in the operation of their respective departments if it were in their power to curb spending growth. Neither could think of anything.
Sorry guys, I love you, but no. Unacceptable. Perhaps we should have that conversation again after we say no to another override.
That meeting tonight was useless. We need to do better. Much, much better.