"FY20 By the Numbers"
We at Save Our Schools Dighton-Rehoboth pride ourselves on transparency, cooperation, and accuracy in the information we spread to the public. Once again as a town, we face conflicting information and financial turmoil in Rehoboth. There are clear sides that can be seen within the town government and by followers on social media. It appears to most that you can either be “for the town” or “for the school,” but we at Save Our Schools are in support of both a fiscally strong town and school. The divisive language can be seen when numbers are finagled and depictions are made that aren’t always the full story. After collaborating with community members, the School Committee, and the district central office team, we have decided to explain the FY20 situation by the numbers.
We must first reassess the events of Fiscal Year 19 in order to fully understand the events of Fiscal Year 20. Let’s first look at the financial stress the Town of Rehoboth was in even before the so-called “school override” was deemed necessary. In their portion of the $27.1 million budget, the municipality requested $9.6 million. However, only $25 million was left after the town spent the difference on one-time expenses, most of which were sponsored and approved by the Board of Selectmen. In addition, the town had increased its assessment from FY18 to FY19 $822,186; a 9.3% increase. Why would the town have asked for such an incredible increase while putting itself in a deficit at the same time? Here’s why: the Finance Committee is an appointed position in Rehoboth, despite almost every surrounding town electing their FinComm representatives. Furthermore, the Board of Selectmen, the elected officials whose office entered this deficit, is the body that appoints FinComm. Let’s not forget that originally, the July 17th, 2018 override was set at $1.3 million for the schools that later ballooned into $2.1 million. Yes, all of that money did go to the schools and will again this year with an additional $1 million, but the language on the ballot that day read so that the voters only approved the money going to the schools for FY19, which is coming to a close. We have been trapped by misinformation and misleading into a situation where we need to stand up and say “enough is enough.”
Next, let’s look at the situation the school district was put into last year. Out of the same $27.1 million as before, $17.5 million of that was requested as part of the district’s operating assessment. This was a $1.2 million increase or a 7% increase, a significantly smaller percentage increase than the town’s request. Before the FY19 budget process, the debt exclusions to fund DR’s roof, Beckwith’s windows, and Palmer River’s roof had already been voted on and approved by the town, so to include these numbers in any increase that the school is asking for each fiscal year would be mathematically inaccurate. In response to the voters of Rehoboth showing overwhelming support for the district’s FY19 budget, the FinComm, deliberately acting in opposition with the wishes of the voters, have tried to force Rehoboth into another Proposition 2 ½ Override election in order to fund the district’s conservative FY20 1.3% budget.
To recap, the Finance Committee did not invite the School Committee to their meeting to discuss the FY20 budget, which was an unprecedented, unprofessional move by FinComm and its chairman. This meeting was also not recorded, and when asked for the minutes of that meeting, the FinComm sent out an over 7,000-page document including spread out excel sheets and irrelevant documents that made it nearly impossible to decipher what was actually discussed at the meeting. FinComm should be held accountable for this lack of transparency.
For whatever it’s worth, we at Save Our Schools Dighton-Rehoboth very much appreciate everyone who has been following this process and staying up to date with the truth about what’s going on. We understand that there is a lot of different information flying around out there, and we can assure you that all of our information is gathered directly from School Committee members and the Central Office team at the school. However, we do encourage our supporters and followers to open their minds about the situation, to maybe peruse through some of what other people are claiming, and then try to make sense of the situation for themselves. In accordance with the First Amendment, everyone is entitled to express and speak about their own opinions, and we do not wish to infringe on that. Please educate yourselves and do whatever it takes to make it to the Rehoboth Special and Annual Town Meeting on Monday the 13th!