In one of the most disingenuous and dishonest and non transparent moves I've ever seen in person the Mayor's spokesperson came to the school committee tonight and proposed a school budget of $786 million dollars for fiscal year 2010, which is 47 million dollars below what we are spending this year, even though the Mayor's own projected revenues are the same as this year!
In other words the Mayor is saying that he wants to cut teachers and school funding in order to increase spending on other areas of the budget!
It was a madhouse at Court Street tonight, with hundreds of teachers and parents and students there to protest the school cuts. I won't go into detail about how ridiculous the numbers are in the report, which I assume the City will put online(???) for all to see. It is pretty detailed, but the only number that is really important is the proposed budget of $786 million. Dr. Reilinger started to immediately see some of the inconsistency, as the report on one hand says that the city will eliminate 699 full time equivalent employees, but on the other hand has a higher number for health care costs for those (now nonexistent) employees.
The bottom line is that Mayor Menino is trying to drum up support for his meals tax by scaring the heck out of students and teachers and parents. Doing his best Bush/Cheney/Rove tactics to get more money to build his power base. What he is going to do is try and look like a hero, by coming in and 'responding' to the crisis by miraculously finding the money to restore to the budget. In another hint about where he is going, there is a new school transit map proposed. They are clearly going to try and cut down on busing costs, maybe even eliminate busing from one side of the city to another, and try and keep people in zones. I have proposed ending busing altogether (except for choice) which you can read about here Notice, I wrote this way before the Globe or Phoenix weighed in on the issue.
I can not believe that the Mayor would use these scare tactics on his own people. In a preview of what Sam Yoon will be running on, he testified that education is a high priority and that we need to look at the downtown towers for more revenue. That's funny, I was talking about that 4 years ago in the City Council race. Welcome aboard the bandwagon Sam. 121A tax breaks for "blighted" buildings like One Beacon Street cost the taxpayers tens of millions of dollars that could go into education. Councilor Flaherty showed up late and hadn't testified by the time I and most other people had left.
Principal Macafee of the Madison Park High School and other administrators offered to take a 3% pay cut to help keep programs and teachers, exclusive of administrators who are retiring soon. The City is also offering a carrot and stick to the teachers union, allowing teachers who retire to take a one time 8% payout (not added to their pension number) but ONLY if all the teachers agree to a one year pay freeze.
The truth is that there is money in this budget not to cut a single teachers job or school program. When I am elected Mayor, I will restore any cuts this current administration makes to those programs.
My comments to the committee were as follows:
"Thank you for the chance to comment. This budget presentation has been disingenuous. Last Monday Lisa Signori informed the City Council that FY 2010 revenues would be up by 11 million dollars, essentially flat. There is no reason to decrease the spending for FY 2010.
With flat revenues the Mayor proposes a 54 million dollar reduction in the schools? Why does he value teachers and students less than other departments? Education should be our number 1 priority.
In the last 5 years the city payroll has increased by 1200 workers. Only 200 are police and 75 teachers. We need to look at cutting the other 925 workers before 1 teacher is removed.
This budget deficit was first identified in June of 2008. The Mayor and City Council responded to this identified deficit by giving all council staff and department heads raises! Before 1 teacher is laid off those raises need to be rescinded.
We need to stop giving away our land and our money. If we sold Winthrop Square garage we could get 100 million dollars. Deficit over. The Mayor gave away Heyward Place for free-we were promised a school-we got nothing. We need to take that parcel back sell it and put that money into education.
Education is what made the 20th century the American century. Now is not the time to cut funding it is the time to invest in our students.
The school board and the parents must demand an honest transparent budget that values education, teachers and students at least as much as other departments."