It is human nature that whenever an unexpected crisis arises, our attention is immediately centered on determining the cause and, unfortunately, seeking something or someone to blame. This year, Martha’s Vineyard’s path has been severely disturbed by the sudden need to cope with a large increase in the school budget. Unfortunately it comes at a time when the school system has just achieved its goal of becoming one of the best locations in Massachusetts to provide children with an education.
Most of this problem has come about through a Massachusetts decision to raise its criteria for schools throughout the state. But these demands cannot be accomplished — especially for small towns like Oak Bluffs and others — without sufficient funding to provide the required services.
It is true that efforts of the school board, finance committee and the selectmen of Oak Bluffs and the other Islandwide organizations have gone over the school budget numerous times with the intent of further reducing it. However, the significant number of state mandates and the desire to provide a quality education for our children has still left a significant shortfall which requires more funds from the town and ultimately its residents.
What this requires is that needed services, i.e., infrastructure (fire station, town hall, coastal repairs, e.g.), the elimination of the business center’s eyesores, and increasing town employee salaries required by signed contracts must be pitted against education.
This poses a difficult problem and decisions about the relative importance of each of these needs to be filled in the 2015 town budget. In my capacity as a member of the finance committee, I have had an opportunity to review each budget component. My conclusion is that, while some of our school system’s requests can possibly be further reduced, the same is true for many other town departments and projects, such as proposed steps to give the town a better appearance, the addition of a new police officer, the replacement of older equipment for the EMT and fire departments, trading in three-year-old police cars for new vehicles and other expenditures.
As a taxpayer and an elected public official, I believe that some of the above measures can be postponed in order to maintain the quality education that our children deserve.
Abraham L. Seiman