To the Editor:
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 Massachusetts’s decision to raise its criteria for schools throughout the state. But these demands cannot be accomplished, especially for smalltowns like Oak Bluffs, and others, without sufficient funding to provide the required services.
It is true that the efforts of the school board, finance committee, and the board of selectmen of Oak Bluffs and other Island-wide organizations have gone over the school budget numerous times with the intent of further reducing it. However, the significant number of state mandates and 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, increasing town employees’ 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 need to be made and reflected 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 schools 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/ fire department, 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