2017-05-18 / Letters

Council should let school department do its job

To the editor:

While I’m grateful the Saco City Council passed a budget with a responsible, modest increase in the mil rate, as an educator and taxpayer I am gravely concerned about the council’s myopic meddling with the school department’s $35 million budget.

The proposal to eliminate principals was patently absurd and reflected a new low in throwing-spaghetti-atthe wall budgeting and priority-making. Eliminating a data manager position is nearly as irresponsible: having accurate data – which is required for critical reporting functions, including enrollment tracking – ensures that schools receive the state subsidy to which they are entitled. For every time an English language learner, for example, enrolls in our schools, the school department receives an extra $3,200 in subsidy. Forget to mark that checkbox on the state’s computer system? Lost revenue. A student’s residency can’t be verified? No less than a $6,500 hit on the budget. As more than one school official explained in a public hearing, a data manager is not a revenue neutral position, it’s revenue positive. Jumping over the dollar to get to the dime is poor policy.

Additionally, many councilors took it upon themselves to weaponize what was effectively a line item veto, running roughshod over the education officials charged with crafting a school budget that is responsible to taxpayers and students alike. The council should allow the superintendent and school committee to do its job. Their reckless micromanaging only hurts schools (and, in the case of a data manager, the bottom line). Worse still, it demoralizes teachers, creates uncertainty in parents and sends the wrong message to families who consider making Saco their home.

Chris Indorf Saco

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