Falmouth Residents Push Proposition 2 1/2 Override to Fund School Budget

Jennifer Foley of West Falmouth signs a petition supporting a proposition 2 1/2 override presented to her by Kelly Welch in front of the Mullen Hall School as her son Max Foley looks on. Ms. Welch's petition would raise property taxes beyond the allowed 2.5 percent to avoid large staff cuts proposed in next year's school budget.
GENE M. MARCHAND/ENTERPRISE - Jennifer Foley of West Falmouth signs a petition supporting a proposition 2 1/2 override presented to her by Kelly Welch in front of the Mullen Hall School as her son Max Foley looks on. Ms. Welch's petition would raise property taxes beyond the allowed 2.5 percent to avoid large staff cuts proposed in next year's school budget.

Residents have gathered the 100 signatures needed to get a petitioners article for a Proposition 2 1/2 override on the April Special Town Meeting warrant.

The override would raise property taxes beyond the allowed 2 1/2 percent in order to fully fund next year’s school budget.

To maintain “level services” the school needs an extra $1.6 million over the $42.5 million that the town manager and selectmen have proposed for the school’s FY15 budget.

The school is facing $2.3 million in additional costs for salary increases and rising special education expenses, and town hall has proposed a $780,000 budget increase.

Superintendent Bonny L. Gifford has proposed cutting 44 staff positions, including 15 teachers, to balance next year’s budget.

Following a public information session on the school budget Wednesday night, Linda D. Whitehead organized a Prop 2 1/2 override petition that circulated in town yesterday and continues today.

Ms. Whitehead is the retired music department head for Falmouth schools. She had three children and one grandchild go through the Falmouth schools.

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Kelly A. Welch, mother of two children at Mullen-Hall Elementary School and a town meeting member, contacted Ms. Whitehead to get a copy of the petition and collected signatures from fellow parents in Coffee Obsession on Queens Buyway and outside Mullen-Hall yesterday.

As much as I understand that people are on fixed incomes, we really need to talk about an override.

                                           Karen Heard

Wearing snow boots and holding a blue clipboard, Ms. Welch collected signatures from parents as they came to pick up their children.

Ms. Welch said the proposed cuts are unacceptable “and just sitting back and taking it is not the right message.”

Dr. Gifford and town manager Julian M. Suso are new to town, Ms. Welch pointed out. “They’re new here,” she said. “They need to understand what our priorities are, and what we will do to support our schools.”

Many parents arrived and sought out Ms. Welch because they had received her e-mail and Facebook posting announcing the petition and where she would be collecting signatures throughout the day.

“Boy, that e-mail went round and round this morning,” Ms. Welch said. “Thank God for social media.”

Karen S. Heard, mother of two children in the school system, signed the petition.

“I don’t think the kids can take that many cuts. It’s going to be devastating,” Ms. Heard said. “As much as I understand that people are on fixed incomes, we really need to talk about an override.” 

As of 9 AM this morning, Ms. Welch said she had 85 signatures in her possession. Ms. Whitehead said she had 60 signatures. 100 are needed to get the petition on the April Town meeting warrant. Deadline for submitting the signatures is 4:30 PM at town hall today.

Ms. White said she will be outside Stop & Shop today until 3:30 PM continuing to collect signatures.

The exact language on the petition is as follows: “To see if the town will raise and appropriate or transfer from available funds a sum to supplement the school department’s operating budget for fiscal year 2015 contingent upon the passage of a Proposition 2 1/2 referendum question, or take any other action relative thereto.”

An override requires both Town Meeting approval, and a majority vote in a town-wide ballot in May. 

Dr. Gifford responded to the petition this morning, saying that “citizens have a right” to follow whatever path they deem best, and that “when the town has decided what’s good for them, we will work with that.”

She said she believes that as preliminary numbers in next year’s budget become more definite that the budget situation may improve. For example, she said, the state just announced a $300,000 increase in Falmouth’s portion of school state aid.

Dr. Gifford said she is meeting with Mr. Suso on Monday and is “becoming hopeful” that the situation may not be as bad as first anticipated.

Next week, she said, she would have “a better idea” of the exact deficit that the school is facing, and it may be less than the $1.6 million so far discussed. How much less, she did not want to guess. 

Comments

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  • Billcarson

    The two commercial wind turbines in Falmouth are costing around $250,000.00 to operate for the year. The turbines also require power from the electric company when they are not operating 12 hours a day. The electric use from the electric company equals 20 percent of the output of the turbines when they are operating. The maintenance contracts on the turbines are as high as $70,000.00 each. They still owe 5 million on Wind II and 1 million on Wind I. The Falmouth Energy Committee has not produced an energy report to the Select Board in ten years. Ten years ago the total cost of electrity in Falmouth to all departments totaled 2 million dollars a year . The Falmouth residents need to take a hard look at the energy costs to Falmouth in 2011 and 2012 with those two finacial fiasco wind turbines .How much did the town spend on electric power in the last two years? Your going to hear that Falmouth Town Counsel has told all departments not to discuss the wind turbines which includes the elecrtic power bills. The teachers are supposed to be smart .To see where the town is spending the money is simple .The wind turbines are a financial fiasco and cause healh problems - How long does it take to figure out your being choked by two wind turbines shoved down your throats ? The Select Board is probably spending more than the school budget going back and fourth to court spending all the taxpayers money and doing redo lawsuits over the wind turbines What does it take to wake up ?
  • fborgxx

    Falmouth residents don't be fooled by this latest scam by the Superintendent! All her little robots went out and got signatures so we can all pay more taxes. Lets not forget the turbines, the water treatment plant, the up and coming lawsuit that will end up paying the plaintiffs in the turbine suit a boatload of money. The sewering of Falmouth Heights and the Little Pond area including Maravista. Then we have the 40B crowd that is pushing to put housing in a flood zone. When that doesn't work guess who will pay for this? The funniest part and I do find this funny is that if you read the article in the Cape Cod Times and Enterprise you end up finding that at the end Ms. Gifford basically says to all that it might not be as bad as she thinks its going to be. This town educates a very small amount of children. If you take every residence and realize that there are lots of summer homes where there are no children in school; has anyone thought of just how disrespectful this has become to summer residents? Its basically an expectation that we'll tax you without representation in the name of the children. Mr. Murphy was right on the money even though he was taken to task by the editor of the CCT. The board of selectman are constantly caught between a rock and hard spot. The turbines were voted on after consultants said they were properly sited and legal. Now the town is suing itself. It just doesn't seem to stop with disaster after disaster. Mr. Suso and Dr. Gifford were also mentioned as being new and haven't kind of got in the swing of the Town yet. At least thats my take. In the end there are so many projects and X amount of dollars as was eloquently stated by Mr.Murphy. Like he said if he had the money he'd hand it out. WE DON'T HAVE THE MONEY AND JUST LIKE THE TURBINES DON'T BE FOOLED BY MS. GIFFORD! VOTE A BIG NO ON THIS OVERRIDE........!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Billcarson

    The Falmouth School Committee needs to ask themselves and all those responsible for installing the two giant economic fiasco of two wind turbines would they be talking about a teacher layoff today ? The town installed two commercial wind turbines that are causing health problems making people sick. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection notified the town on May 14 ,2012 the turbines are breaking the state noise laws. The turbines were to bring in one million a year but are now costing way more than $250,000.00 a year. A loss of 1.25 million in possible assets . On top of the loss of operating the turbines is an enormous debt service to the two wind turbines . The bottom line here is Falmouth would have been better off without the two wind turbines. There is no other town in Massachusetts talking about laying off more than 40 teachers .Only Falmouth. The Town of Princeton ,Massachusetts has two commercial wind turbines and that town pays the highest electric rates in Massachusetts . It's time for the school teachers to do their home work ! Look into the wind turbine mess in town ! Ask you Town Meeting Members and Select Board what happened ! Don't let them tell you they didn't have a Crystal Ball and couldn't foresee the future ! This has been an ongoing problem in Falmouth for 4 years and all the town does is keep going back to court wasting more money fighting the wind turbine victims. Stop the madness !
  • STFalmouth

    oh bill, get off the turbines. regardless of the turbine viability, the issue is the school budget. you make it sound like since YOU don't like the turbines, if we weren't spending money on them that the overspending in the school budget is ok to kick down the road for years. please note that this was a skillful scare tactic on the part of the schoolboard. the sky is falling the sky is falling! help us! do it for the KIDS! well, now the facts are out and maybe the sky ISN'T falling afterall. Maybe the cuts WON'T be drastic but she's already got the soccer moms out collecting names that will grant her a BLANK CHECK on future spending. Give me a break. so much largess in the budget, a few years of belt tightening are in order. Concerned parents are MORE than welcome to send the school department tax deductable checks in any amount. Don't ask taxpayers to pay more so precious can play varsity tennis. VOTE A BIG NO ON THIS OVERRIDE........!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • STFalmouth

    Can anyone just go stand on school grounds and solicit for political purposes? Can I go stand on school grounds and distribute literature about wind turbines?
  • MCool

    As a publicly owned utility, Falmouth’s Wind 1 and Wind 2 have an obligation to Falmouth’s residents to deliver a reliable investment return and to supplement the municipal economy. The town’s wind project is far from achieving either. If a prop 2 1/2 override is necessary to cover a shortfall in the school budget, while allowing the town’s wind energy project to further deplete other areas of the budget, it’s time the wind turbine mistake is part of a wider community discussion. Ignoring the mistake further will only compound future budget area decisions and put at greater risk other municipal services we’ve come to expect. As well intentioned as Town Meeting investors were, the return on the investment has been a bust. Regardless of the complicated reasons for the mistake, it’s becoming strikingly apparent, as other town departments will likely suffer in terms of their budgets, that ignoring a the twin turbine mistake will have predictable and dire consequences on the financial health of the community.
  • MCool

    Whatever funds are sought targeting a need that is compelling and widely acknowledged in the community: Two without question – Resident and Student Protection! Laura Peterson got up at the January 22 school community information forum and sarcastically said, “take emotion out of this.” She was giving argument that such a position is an obvious disconnect from reality. The comment was likely aimed at Selectman Kevin Murphy, who asked School Superintendent Gifford to keep “emotion” out of her budget presentation to the board of selectmen earlier this month. Miss Peterson is right that passion and conviction must be worn on one’s sleeve when something of tremendous value is being threatened. Early on during the town’s wind turbine siting mistake, I didn’t want to show emotion in front of others. Since this has become a protracted search for answers and for relief, it’s been relayed to me by sincere friends, that I’ve become out of control. The emotionally stoic career (34 years) Air Traffic Controller has been reduced to being… out of control. Why? Protected by the cinder block walls, I’ve bust into tears in my basement with no one around as I’ve confronted the welter of emotion. Desperate to find answers and some tangible means of permanent relief, I’ve set upon an advocacy campaign through writing and persistently pressing questions and concern to officials. Local, as well as the state’s government has a wider obligation to the citizen that it has asked to take up the wind energy challenge. Deriving all of it’s powers from the people, the government should surely give care to ALL of it’s people. The school system’s, as well those suffering neighbors around the wind turbines. Local and State government should dispense it’s power with full attention to the people’s protection, addressing the futures of both a sound mind and body. A formal, coordinated government action, given the precept of wind turbine siting and public protection, has long been required. The Department of Public Utilities has now been dispatched to investigate. It’s notable that health (either mental or physical) is not the purview of the DPU. The Falmouth citizen knows well the willingly sacrificed for the wind energy cause promoted by the State. For example, the Town Meeting approved (repeated) funding of the town’s wind energy project. Now, after the continued suffering of some residents, common humanity cannot easily erase the circumstance of the unsuspecting citizen that has been cast off as a casualty for the renewable energy cause. The Falmouth citizen once embraced the vital interest of wind energy, as we should continue to equally embrace the intrinsic value of a good education. However, the major difference, during the wind project process, no citizen agreed to the forfeiture of their neighbors basic right protections. A truer accounting of health and property impact is demanded. Similarity, a truer accounting of why the school department is the only municipal department incurring health benefit costs redistributions. In terms of wind, numbers, over numbers are heralded to reduce climate change, increase both job creation and revenue windfalls, as well as forging to meet state wind energy goals. In Falmouth, no amount of arithmetic is consolation to the community in terms of it’s threatened loss of school system benefit, nor to those who would expect the assurance of where they call home… being a safe and healthy place to live, sleep, work and play.