Editorial: Don’t Gamble With the Education Budget

Last month, the Board of Education passed its annual budget on a 5 to 2 vote. I was one of the two “no” votes. I think it was the right way to vote at the Board of Education level, but I will be voting FOR the budget at the town referendum tomorrow, April 23. I realize that saying “I voted against it before I voted for it” is a bad political move, but I’m not very interested in politics. But votes at a Board meeting are different, and have different risks and consequences, then votes at a referendum.

At the Board level – the failure of any particular motion can lead to discussion and a new consensus and an improved motion. We board members can hash out the details of a budget and take multiple votes (indeed, there were two separate votes on the budget that night). We can increase, decrease or change any of the line items until we find a solution that a majority of members support.

We don’t have that kind of discussion or flexibility at a town vote. At the referendum tomorrow, the vote is all or nothing and if the budget goes down, the impact will be significant, especially at our schools. Each budget referendum costs the town thousands of dollars to operate. More significantly, a failed budget in Granby has always resulted in a budget cut to the two operating boards — Education and the Municipality.

There has been a lot of talk about the need for full-time Teaching Assistants in kindergarten. People are talking about voting down the budget in the hopes of getting MORE money for education to save the full-time TAs. This is unlikely to happen. Granby’s boards have always taken a hit to their budgets when they fail. I appreciate the parents that want to advocate for more money to save the TAs. But my fear is that a failed budget will put at risk the many things we’ve fought hard to get into this budget.

For the first time in over a decade — we are adding a teaching position to provide direct services to gifted and talented kids in the middle school. If the budget goes down tomorrow, you put at risk this position. You also will risk high school sports and the strings music program. These are the things that will be cut if our budget fails tomorrow.

If the budget passes tomorrow, can we save the full time TA positions? I believe the answer is Yes, but only if the budget passes. I believe the Board can and will continue to pay attention to the kindergarten class sizes through the spring and summer. As the number of kids that are enrolling become firmer – the Superintendent will respond if he needs to. Moving and adjusting line items during the year can be done with a simple Board vote – but only if our budget isn’t slashed to the bone following a failed referendum vote.

The well-intentioned parents that believe they can get an increase in the Education budget by voting no tomorrow are playing a dangerous game of chance with our entire budget. The risk of significant cuts hurting the arts, gifted programs and sports are real. I hope that parents will join me tomorrow to vote “YES” on the town budget referendum and continue to advocate for the TA positions over the coming months.

Thank You,

Lynn Guelzow

(these are my opinions alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of other board members or the board as a whole).