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As a School Committee Member, I am all too familiar with the limitations of our town’s funding. Each year the budget process has become increasingly difficult and the outcome increasingly detrimental for our schools and town. I am writing as a citizen and Town Meeting Member to ask for help to address this problem.
The bottom line is that we need this operational override. Costs since our last override in 2003 have gone up more than 2.5 % each year; some costs like for transportation, insurance, and special education have gone up exponentially more.
Our town leaders have made every dollar count in a community with limited commercial and industrial property. In fact, through successful grant applications, our town leaders have stretched our funds with millions of grant dollars. Our budgets have also been bolstered by the generous donations of time, resources, and funding from residents, teachers, and local businesses. This combination of fiscal management with community and professional generosity has enabled each of us to NOT have to pay for an override for far longer than expected or warranted. Prop 2 ½ was not intended to freeze our property taxes forever. It was intended to ensure that the populace understands where their tax dollars are going and have some say in the frequency and size of increases. It is now time for us to pass an override for the well-being of our community.
For the last five years, very painful cuts have been made. For more specific information, please check out the information that has been made available on both the websites of the town and schools at https://www.readingma.gov/home/news/fy19-draft-budget-process-timeline and https://www.reading.k12.ma.us/test/budget-information/fy19-budget-information/. We have cut teachers and administration, while our class sizes have grown and our class options have decreased. Our town has not been able to hire the police and fire staff needed, upgrade our facilities, or even keep up with necessary technology maintenance. Now we are faced with even more cuts, including but not limited to the loss of Foreign Language for our 7th and 8th graders and half of the Language Arts Classes for 6th graders.
The reality is that we are now at a threshold where not only our services and home values are threatened, but also the character of our community. If the ambulances cannot get to our homes quickly enough; if there are insufficient police to respond to help calls; if our students fall through the cracks and quality teachers leave, the character of our loving community will change. My husband and I planted our roots here almost 22 years ago, raised our three children here, and intend to stay forever – we do not want this to happen!
This time around, the smaller and more specific override proposal on the ballot for April 3rd reflects that the leaders of our town have been listening to the feedback of those who voted ‘no’ last fall.
This override will enable us to save the Foreign Language program and the Language Arts classes that enrich and support so many students, as well as put back high school and elementary teachers that have been cut over the years. It includes funding for curriculum as well as a plan for sustainability. For the town, It includes the police and firefighters we need, Sunday library hours, and support for town hall services. We need this override to pass!
The last point I want to make is how important YOUR vote is! Overrides succeed or fail by a small margin – one vote, YOUR vote could make the difference!
Please join us in voting YES for our town on April 3rd. It is vital for all of us.
Linda Snow Dockser