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March 14, 2014

Editorial: Rockport's override withdrawal shows taxpayer respect

There are still some questions about how the town may specifically cover the costs.

And it remains to be seen, as always, whether the full town budget will get voters’ full approval, or face cuts and perhaps other floor amendments at the April 5 Annual Town Meeting.

But Rockport’s Finance Committee, selectmen, Superintendent of Schools Robert Liebow and Town Administrator Linda Sanders all deserve credit for hashing out a means of securing a fiscal 2015 budget for the town’s school district without having to go to voters seeking approval for an override of Proposition 21/2.

The rescinding of any override requests, pulled together during a Finance Committee meeting Wednesday night (See news story, Page 1) carries a number of messages for town residents and taxpayers.

First, while the School Committee is not significantly scaling back its budget $12.4 million spending plan, it’s important to note that the proposed new school budget represents a very modest increase over the current year of just $89,894, or less than 1 percent. And the Finance Committee, headed by Wally Hess, has rightfully sought to cover the amount through adding $275,000 to the schools’ allocation from the town, while the schools will cover the other $75,000.

More importantly, however, the agreement to forego an override vote this year shows a respect for town taxpayers, who frankly shouldn’t be asked to override Proposition 21/2 primarily to bolster the schools’ or any other department’s reserve fund — and that was a prime purpose of the proposed override from the start.

School districts need to have reserve money available in their spending plans — and not necessarily to cover storm, snow and ice removal or some other natural calamity. In their case, the addition of even one or two new special-ed students, for example, can add personnel and other service costs that can hit six figures in a hurry. And to that end, the town’s added allocation to the schools will include some $200,000 for special-ed contingencies, Liebow indicated.

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