The Bully Reports (factual errors and all)
Of course you non news wonks will wonder what the big deal is: the Governor either submitted a level funded budget or a lousy 5% cut from last year budget (as reported in the Bully). But the difference to Amherst is $1 million. Kind of a BIG difference.
Just as someone could say what the hell difference does it make for the teachers to give up their little 3% raise and COLA next year. Well, that makes a $1.3 million difference. That too is pretty damn big.
UPDATE: 3:55 PM
My reliable sources at the BCG meeting tell me the Override will be a lump sum general amount (almost certainly $1.9 million) but "With Allocations" (meaning it will include ballot language that will allocate so much to the libraries, so much to the schools, etc.)
The BCG will meet again Wednesday at 10:15 AM, after more School Committee meetings next Monday and Tuesday. The Select Board will definitely meet next Friday at 8:30 AM, as scheduled in advance in case they needed to, to finalize things.
And Amherst School Committee lightening rod Catherine Sanderson posted this interesting strong arm incident from Tuesday's School Committee meeting:
"One final thing - I asked Stephanie O'Keeffe at the meeting last night three questions:
1. Whether it would be possible from the BCG/SB's perspective for the SC to vote simply to put an override on the ballot to let the voters decide (without the SC taking a specific stand supporting the override). She said no -- that the SB would not include the schools on an override ballot if the SC didn't take a position supporting an override."
So I'm sitting here trying to liveblog this meeting (the wireless keeps coming and going.)
Starts on time. First 'public comment' mentions "menu Override". He states that 3 members of the Facilitation's Committee are here and last year they stated an Override would be necessary withing the "next five years," BUT that Override should be a Menu Override, meaning voters can pick and choose what they support rather than an all-or-nothing, lump sum number. Maybe they should get a chance to explain that position?
I, of course, ask why we're here in the first place, since this body is supposed to forward a dollar amount and structure to the Select Board, who is meeting on Monday night, and that I also thought the Select Board on Monday would hear "public comment" on the Override--both structure and amount.
But, I'm reading today's Amherst Bulletin (dated tomorrow) that trumpets a definitive $1.9 million Override on a Front Page story--above the fold no less. So if it's a done deal, why bother with this meeting, and why bother with public input on Monday night?
Stephanie deflects by saying she can't speak for the Bulletin and they (the Select Board) are still in the process.
Vince O'Connor said he agrees a Menu Override would be best.
Andy Churchill (School Committee). Some are saying to delay the Override vote to April (thus setting up a standalone election that will cost $12,000 And since the Town Clerk is scheduled to lose an employee that's just what they need. )
The Region consists of 4 towns and the other three should have some input. They are comfortable with allowing the Amherst School Committee to come up with a figure for the Elementary Schools. The Region, however, does not meet until this Saturday.
Andy Churchill actually uses the word "hardball" for the way the Select Board is strong arming the School Committee to get behind (in lockstep) with the Override. Hmm...
Jones Library. Did not take a formal vote on supporting or opposing the Override--i.e. "took no position." They only voted to support the total amount needed so that they do not lose state certification.
Princess Stephanie (SB Chair) parses that to say that they "support" an Override. Hmm...
Town Manager asks if they are "silent on the Override". "So far," they respond.
Gerry Weiss starts to browbeat Jones Library Trustee Chair Patricia Holland. "So, you want an extra $60,000--but you don't want to ask the voters? You want the Select Board to do that!"
Town Manager: "One option for the BCG is to give the Select board a number NOT to exceed..."
The community is expecting the Override on 3/23, so Shaffer is recommending for the SB to keep to that date. "The train is leaving the station."
Andy Churchill: "We need another BCG meeting next week and the Select Board should not make a decision this Monday night."
Gerry Weiss: "It's not feeling good to hear you're not ready. Delay is a bad idea."
Alberto Rodriguez (School Super)
How can we deliver school services cheaper? What are we going to bring back? Two different budgets (elementary and Region) but we're trying to integrate them and think more like a seamless K-12. Some cuts may go, so may come back. I met with Principals and they are working on a reprioritized list of cuts but will get them to me later.
In other words: they are still working on it. But says Mr. Rodriguez, "We will come up with something that everyone dislikes," eliciting the first chuckles of the meeting.
Princess Stephanie: We can still move forward and give the Select board a recommendation. We're committed to keeping the 3/23 date? (Andy Churchill and Regional School Chair say "no")
Town Manager uses metaphor, "We're not a speedboat, we're more like the Titanic." Yikes! (A few folks jump in to correct that image.)
Stephanie mentions the $12,000 cost for a stand alone election if after the normal 3/23 town election.
Alberto Rodriguez says you would get a better turnout on the already set 3/23 date.
Stephanie closes the discussion by saying it's going to be 3/23. Now moves on to THE AMOUNT.
Town Manager: "We're right around the $1.9 million figure." (Gee, he must have read the Amherst Bulletin.)
Stephanie moves on the "the form" of the Override. Gerry Weiss wants to talk about the "surplus" the town seems to find every year, that goes into Free Cash savings. That with-or-without an Override we will still have a surplus (because of cuts.)
Musante: Recent surplus was about $720,000. Previous two years was a little over $1 million each year. Reserves are beginning "to rebound." Better than they were two years ago.
Sorry folks. I gotta go pick up my daughter. Will make a few calls in the next few hours to see what happened.