I would like to thank the financial officer for the Boston Public Schools, John McDonough, who returned a call to me at almost 7 pm last night. That is the type of hard work and responsiveness that I can truly respect.
My basic question has been why is the Mayor proposing a 47 million dollar year over year cut in the school budget?
The answer, as I understand it, is as follows. The Mayor has gone to all of his departments and requested that they propose a budget with a 7 percent decrease. (Already we see how he tries to hype the problem in the press-back in December we heard news of 15% cuts: twice the size of what he actually was proposing. The budget doesn't change that fast and by that much, we need careful honest analysis, not hyperbole)
This was confirmed to me last night as I was going to community meetings across the city. At an event at Tavalo a great new pizza place at Ashmont in Dorchester, I had a nice talk with a gentleman who works in the Purchasing Department at City Hall. He reiterated that the Mayor has told all the departments to present budgets seven percent lower than last year. (the event was great, many thoughtful, interested citizens from three different neighborhood organizations. Linda Dorcena Forry, Maureen Feeney and Charles Yancey all made appearances as well. People are VERY concerned about the schools which is encouraging)
I asked John why we needed to cut the budget by seven percent across the board, and in general terms he explained how long term responsible costs such as pension and health care are eating up the budget.
As I wrote about in my South End News piece, "Tom Menino's Ponzi Scheme" these costs were predictable and a result of the Mayor negotiating bad contracts. You can not continue to give 5% raises across the board (as he has proposed in this years budget) when Proposition 2.5 limits incoming revenue and the cost of living goes up on average about 3% a year. It does not make fiscal sense. On top of that he has hired 1200 workers (ironically enough a 7% increase) in the last 5 years, only 200 are police and 75 are teachers. Why do we need 7 percent more workers when the city population is essentially stable? We need to look at what those other 925 workers are doing before we talk about laying off teachers and police officers.
With me as Mayor, we will have an open, transparent budget process that puts education and public safety first, and will not engage in histrionics to divert the public from the real issues.