Re: Why an Override
As the leading appointed finance official in the town, I have worked to maintain a neutral position for myself and the Finance Committee on the July 17th Proposition 2 1/2 override. While individual members of my committee have their personal opinions on the override, and have expressed them publicly, I feel it is important for the committee to remain neutral as residents from both the "pro" and "con" side seek information on the override, and its impact, from us.
Despite this, I feel I can no longer remain publicly silent on one matter. Despite being informed otherwise, school officials continue to mislead the residents of the town on a critical fact.
In his July 10th editorial "Why an Override?" Dr. Azar continues to peddle a fallacy there was "a municipal deficit of $900,000" which was "unilaterally moved [...] into the school district line budget."
A municipality is not allowed to deficit spend according to Massachusetts General Law. The $900k Dr. Azar is referring to is the amount of “Free Cash”, or cash reserves, used to fund the operating budgets at the May 2017 town meeting.
Attached is a 6 page PDF document containing the official certifications from the Rehoboth Town Clerk of the May 2017 Annual Town Meeting. In this document, on page 6 (line #2) -- Article 3, Fiscal Year 2018 funding for the Dighton Rehoboth Regional School District -- it is clearly indicated the regional school system budget was partly funded by $596,489 of "Free Cash." Hence, the regional school system was a direct beneficiary of a portion of Dr. Azar's alleged "$900k deficit."
(The remaining $324,244 of the $920,733 used was to partially fund the town budget, as indicated on page 5, line #117.)
Had Town Meeting not used $596k in cash reserves to fund the regional school system budget in May 2017, then either 1) a reduction of $596k would have been required in the appropriation made to the regional school system in order to "balance the books" or 2) Rehoboth town residents would have been asked to override Proposition 2 1/2 last summer to make up the difference.
Dr. Azar is well aware of these facts, and while I understand he has a responsibility to advocate for the needs of the regional school system, I have to conclude at this point the falsehood continues to be peddled to parents and educators in order to gin up an emotional response that Town officials are somehow to blame for the regional school system's inability to get its financial house in order and control the astronomical rate of growth in its budget.
Certainly, this continued rhetoric on his part does nothing to promote the “we’re all in this together” mantra we constantly hear the regional school system’s elected and appointed officials preach to us. If school officials are intellectually dishonest on this matter, what else are they dishonest about?
Finally, I should point out to readers that Dr. Azar, while a resident of Rehoboth and entitled to his personal opinion, is an employee of the Dighton-Rehoboth Regional School District, and is not an employee or elected or appointed official of the Town of Rehoboth, and thus cannot speak authoritatively on matters pertaining to the Town of Rehoboth's budget or financial status.
Michael P. Deignan
Rehoboth Finance Committee