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Mr. [Mike] Colson has chosen to begin the slinging of rhetoric related to the upcoming budget process very early this year. As such and since he felt it necessary to throw my name into the rhetoric, I am responding to a number of items in his letter to the editor dated November 14, 2019. I also welcome Mr. Colson to attend the numerous budget reviews that the selectmen and Finance Committee members hold in public every year for many weeks each winter ahead of the Annual Town Meeting so that he can better understand the needs of all departments, not just what the schools’ need.
As he rightly points out in his last paragraph (“although it is early, and no initial budget numbers have been made public yet”), there is no budget right now and in fact, there has not even been initial public reviews of either of the town’s nor the school’s proposed budgets. Yet, he is “told that from a budgetary perspective it’s going to be more of the same if not worse for the Westford Public next year.” It’s curious to me where this information comes from if not the public? Furthermore, it is the taxpayers who decide what the budget will be…not Mr. Colson, not me, not Superintendent Olsen but rather the combined taxpayers in our town.
He states that the school system finds itself “ensnared in a quagmire of significant budget deficits.” A few clarifications to his comment. First, how can one be ensnared when the event has not even started yet? Second, a budget deficit is when you spend more than what a budget provides…no town nor school spends more than what the budget allows, so in reality there is never a budget deficit. Lastly, the word ensnared means to catch or be trapped…nothing could be further from the truth…agreements are always reached and presented to Town Meeting for its approval.
Mr. Colson states that last year the school’s allocation was drastically below the budget put forward by the School Committee and the Superintendent. A reminder that the only budget is what the taxpayers approve at Annual Town Meeting. Clearly, Town Meeting found it proper to ask the schools to fit within the revenues the town had, given all of the other town services taxpayers find important to their quality of life…public safety, trash removal, infrastructure investment, maintenance of its roads, bridges, culverts, waterways, etc.
I will not give it more mention than this, but Mr. Colson’s slandering of the Town Manager is a hit well below the belt.
Finally, he “sat in stunned silence” that I referenced efficiencies were taking place in the current year budget. Let me remind Mr. Colson that just because our town and school departments are public entities does NOT remove the requirement that they look inward at all times to evaluate how they can do more with less when the revenues do NOT support the requested expenditures. Would Mr. Colson like to sacrifice more public safety so that the schools could get all that they wanted? How about less support to our senior community? As elected officials, we are responsible for the ENTIRE town, not just a portion of it. I encourage Mr. Colson and all taxpayers who are interested to listen to all of the proposed budget reviews and not cherry pick those that you represent at the expense of others. — Mark Kost, member of the Westford Select Board