First, the members of the board who voted to approve the override proposal (which passed the Select board by a vote of 3-2) confirmed that they did so with the understanding that it committed the Select board to level service budgets. Dr. Grady’s claims to the contrary were convincingly refuted. In addition, the Chair, Mr. Haberman, indicated that he recalled making this commitment clear to both the board and the Town Manager.
Second, the support of the Select board for fully finding the school’s level-service budget was made quite clear. Only Kathy Grady voted against the schools. Her rationale was quite revealing. She claimed that the failure of the school department to provide her with enough justification for a couple of expenditures made her incapable of supporting the schools. The implication; the schools are hiding something from Dr. Grady. The exhaustive and very transparent school budget process as well as the support of all four other Select board members did not appear to impact Dr. Grady’s view of the schools. Sadly, she also made very clear that she sees the town and schools as adversaries, not partners.
Third, The Town Manager interpreted the admittedly complex concept of “level service” budgeting very creatively. The town v. schools mentality was in full view as the Town Manager and Dr. Grady repeatedly referred to new SPED positions, implying that they were violations of the “level service” approach. Their indictment of our special education spending was part of their efforts to defend more than $200,000 in new non-education spending recommendations. All but one of those recommended spending increases was cut by the Select board last night.
So, the good news is that 4 out of 5 members of the Select board came to work last night with the interests of the whole town in mind. The very precarious financial position of Longmeadow (as well as most small towns in the state) makes it even more important that we reject the division of our town into school and town hall camps. Unfortunately, it appears that this counter-productive perspective found its way into the Town Manager’s recommended budget. Last night the Select board firmly rejected this approach and that is very good news for all of the town’s residents.