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Some members of the Madison Board of Education (BOE) seem to be acting as a rubber stamp for Superintendent of Schools Tom Scarice’s ambitious goal of draining the Madison taxpayers of their hard-earned money. We’d been promised $1 million savings on this year’s budget, but the administration only came up with a reduction from last year of $55,000, a 0.1 percent reduction.
It would make sense that other increasing costs would offset the $1 million savings if, in fact, our enrollment was increasing. But we have 70 fewer students projected next year, we have 1,000 fewer than several years ago, and yet our budget has consistently gone up two- to three percent, and the superintendent can only find a 0.1 percent reduction in a year that also sees a school building close! The proposal included $124,000 in staff reductions. That’s a very small number given that we’re not replacing the principal of the closed school, who makes an administrator’s salary, in addition to other non-teaching staff. After a battle by BOE members Kirk Barneby and Happy Marino against those willing to simply accept that budget, the board found an additional $128,000 for a total of $183,000 in non-programmatic savings, but the town needs the board to also accept that programs shouldn’t be sacrosanct: As enrollment declines, the costs of the programs should also decline.
Who came up with the idea of a playground for $800,000? Calling it an outdoor learning center doesn’t excuse this wasteful boondoggle. (The existing playgrounds at Jeffery and Ryerson were built by volunteer parents.)
The reason we even have a BOE is to set policy, including spending limits. Its members represent the people of this town. Their job isn’t to listen to the superintendent and say, “Oh. Okay.”
Our taxpayers deserve firm leadership from the BOE.
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