To the Editor:
On May 13th Marion Town Meeting votes on three FY 2020 annual budgets totaling $29.1 million: Town operating budget $23.7 million funded by taxes; and the two enterprise funds funded by user fees: sewer $3.1 Million and water $2.2 million.
The sewer and water budgets reflect an increase of 5.79% and 2.13% respectively. The future user fee rate forecasts are currently under study.
The $23.7 million annual operating budget reflects a 3.8% increase over last year. This does not include the direct tax impact resulting for the TURF project, comprehensive sewer management plan, and trash collection issues to be voted on by Town Meeting. If Town Meeting approves these articles, the forecasted tax rate increase is 7.78% including the annual Prop. 2.5 adjustment.
A simple consolidation of the Warrant’s multiple education budget line items to a single line shows an education budget of $11.5 million or 49% of the operating budget.
Four budget line items listing debt, pension, group, and Town insurance total $4.1 million. Of this amount, $2.2 million can be directly attributed to the Sippican School increasing this school’s understated cost 34% from its $6.4 million-line item to $8.6 million.
Education costs when properly allocated are now $13.7 million approaching 60% (58%) of each operating budget tax dollar. There are 454 (K-6th grade) Sippican School students, 9% of the population, with a cost of $18,942 each. The Council on Aging’s budget line is $204,233 for 24% of the population or $116 per citizen age 60 and older. Marion demographics do not justify educational spending at this continuing level.
ORR reflects a 4.47% budget increase. This is continuing compounding from a growing $18 million budget base.
Looking at the Sippican School budget $300 to $400 thousand could be saved annually for the benefit of taxpayer without damaging the program.
School spending needs to be controlled to stay within the annual 2.5% increase target limit set for Town operating budgets. Continuous school spending significantly above the Pop. 2.5 limit will result in cut backs and limitations for other municipal spending.
The $2.6 million Olympic-style sports complex proposed by the TURF special interest group would be a good place to start on allocating scarce tax dollars. Avoiding the use of debt would save tri-town taxpayers $560,000 in financing costs not included TURF’s $2 million cost projections.
It’s time for the taxpayers to turn up the heat on the school committees and the superintendent of schools for prudent and realistic fiscal management and restraint.
Ted North, Marion
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