Poor Ben will turn over in his grave when he hears what the town that honored his name has done or more properly, failed to do.
On the Town Council chamber wall behind the councilors and out of view by most of the common camera angles from the cable TV, is the town seal. The seal is a grand picture of Ben Franklin with his quote underneath: "Industry need not wish".
This was the first thing I wrote in my notebook when sitting in the chambers for the council meeting Wednesday night. The irony of this quote grew as the night wore on. The importance of this quote to our current trouble became clear as my head managed to sort out the events of the evening during my walk home.
So let's see what sorted out:
This problem has been recognized for years. At least 3 years according to some, longer according to others. But certainly not a surprise to anyone familiar with the town.
The budget for fiscal year 2008 as submitted by the all the departments and reviewed by the town administrator was further cut by the Town Council.
The recommendations by the Finance Committee were ignored by the Town Council.
The warnings of our state representatives that the Chapter 70 money can not be counted on for the future left an impression upon the audience. Based upon the Town Council's action, it is safe to say that they ignored them as well.
Independent financial analysis on the relative position of Franklin's tax base vis a vis comparable communities apparently was ignored.
Neither this Town Council nor any other prior has put together a fiscal plan to get Franklin out of its dependence upon Chapter 70 funds. Forget rainy days, one year, Franklin will not receive half of what it currently gets and that will be a disaster.
Recall that the Chapter 70 funds were provided by the Commonwealth in recognition of an increase in mandated school requirements and that some towns experiencing higher growth rates would not be able to afford the requirements. Franklin clearly demonstrated that growth. My own family was part of it arriving in the fall of 1995 and adding two children to the school population. This growth is now slowing down. Recall also a couple of years ago, there was major hoopla over cutting the number of permits allowed. Well, guess what, it is working. And you can't have your cake and eat it too!
With a flatter growth curve (PDF), the Chapter 70 money will decrease.
The charter school reimbursement is scheduled for further reductions.
Special education requirements are increasing and our state representatives will work hard (as they have) to obtain appropriate funding for us, but how much will that be?
The current Chapter 70 funds account for about half the school budget and one quarter of the total town budget.
If the town council would listen to some financial advice and become more industrious about getting a plan together, then the real disaster looming over the town might be alleviated.
Until that day comes, the citizens have only one choice. In order to maintain some level of service, the override must be passed. This year, and next year, and until we have a plan to make Franklin a self-sustaining community. We have been riding on the largess of the Commonwealth for too long. Judgment day will come.
Let's go back to take heed of Ben's insights: "Industry need not wish".
If we work at it, we can solve this problem. Maybe not tomorrow but we can eventually.