Sunday, May 24, 2009

What's At Stake

In 2 weeks we will once again go to the polls to decide whether we want to preserve town services by raising our taxes. On five occasions in the nearly 30 years since Proposition 2 ½ was passed we said yes. It is difficult to imagine anyone thinking that the $8.5 million those votes added to our revenue base could be removed without crippling current service levels in Milton. In other words, those votes were necessary to preserve what we value in a community.

This year we are faced with a potential lose of services significantly greater than in prior years. Our normal need for an override every few years, as so famously noted by our retiring Treasurer Kevin Sorgi, has been compounded by a loss of over $1 million in State aid caused by the severe recession. The result is deep cuts in the big departmental budgets --Police, Fire, DPW, and Schools—with smaller cuts in virtually every town budget.

These are tough economic times. Some Milton residents know this first hand. All of us share the psychological burden. Some who would otherwise support an override may not be able to because of economic challenges. This is understandable. On the other hand, as a town Milton has held up well during the downturn. While home values in the Boston metropolitan area have declined 19% in the past year, in Milton they’ve grown 3%. The difference to the owner of a medium priced home is over $115,000 in assets over just a 12 month period.

Faced with both economic pressures and the loss of essential services we become frustrated and anxious. This has created a desire among a few to “send a message”. Their reasons vary. Some want to target their frustrations on the unions. Others wish to blame those who oppose commercial development and the tax revenue it could bring. A group of elementary school parents want to focus their frustrations on the French Immersion Program.

There is a well known expression for this kind of thinking and the actions it could produce. It’s called “cutting off the nose to spite the face”. It means a needless and self-destructive over-reaction to a problem.

Does anyone harboring these thoughts believe they will not suffer if the override fails? I’m going to try your patience and laboriously list the major impacts of the contemplated cuts. I defy anyone harboring any of these single issue frustrations to deny that they will bear a far greater consequence for their protest vote than their intended target. And I ask them, long after your feeling of satisfaction has passed, and the consequences have become palpable, how will we ever get the services back?

Service Cuts If the Override Fails

Police Department

- loss of 5 police officers
- loss of 6 traffic supervisors
- loss of 2 emergency 911 dispatchers

The traffic supervisors are the crossing guards who protect the hundreds of children who walk to Milton schools.

The loss of 5 officers will have serious consequences. In a recent interview Chief Wells points out that Milton will have fewer than 50 staff for the first time in 100 years. Not only will response time be affected, but so will patrols. For many years now 5 officers have patrolled the Milton streets in the evening and overnight hours. This will be cut to 2 patrols.

Fire Department

-loss of 5 firefighters

On top of losses in prior years, this will require the closing of one of the three fire stations. Outgoing chief Malcom Larson describes the consequences as “delayed and inadequate response to emergencies” as well as greater risk to firefighters.


The loss of yard waste pickup will likely cost many residents a substantial portion of the proposed tax increase to privately contract for removal of clippings, leaves and other yard waste.


-loss of 47 staff, including 32 teachers

There will be drastic changes throughout the system. Superintendent Mary Gormley
says “educational quality on all three levels will suffer. Let’s look more closely.

High School

The following cuts would have the strong possibility of having the High School placed on academic probation by NEASC.

• Elimination of over 12 more full time staff, including teachers from the English, art, history, mathematics, world language, music, family/consumer studies, and physical education/health departments
• Cuts to support staff, library, business course, and the guidance department
• Increased class sizes: 25 to 30 in electives; 25 to 35 in required core subjects
• More than 400 students in study halls
• Reduced graduation requirements
• Fewer Advanced Placement Courses
• Elimination of World Language and Humanities classes
• Elimination of Interactive Math Program
• Elimination of lab activities in science classes
• Additional increases in fees for athletics, clubs, and activities

Middle School

The team teaching concept, long recognized as a sound educational tool for the challenging circumstances of 1000+ middle school students, will be eliminated.

• Elimination of 6 team teachers in math, English, science, and geography/history
• Elimination of 2 world language teachers, 1 art teacher, 1 computer teacher, 1 librarian and .5 physical education teacher
• Elimination of leveling for English language arts, and possibly for math
• Elimination of the entire Latin program, in which more than 80 students currently participate
• Reduction in frequency of world language classes to every other day
• Elimination of Grade 6 writing program
• Increase in electives class sizes to 25-30 students
• Increase in English, math, science, social studies, and world languages class sizes from to 24 to 30
• Reduction in time available for common planning, curriculum meetings, parent meetings, peer observation and other activities that contribute to a better education for your child
• Elimination of physical education classes for some students
• Elimination of the honors art program (ACE)
• Implementation of study halls, which are discouraged by the state’s Department of Education
• Closing of the library during the day

Elementary Schools

-Loss of 11 classroom/specialist positions leading to larger class sizes
-classes with 34 children and only one classroom teacher
-all instructional aides (who currently assist teachers in classes of 26 or more)will be eliminated
-elementary schools will be restructured, so families may end up with children in more than one school.
-children may have to attend school outside their neighborhood
-children may have to attend kindergarten in one school, and then switch to another for grades 1-5.
-many more children will be bused across town.

The breadth and depth of service cuts is so great that dozens of residents have committed to educate the entire town and support an override to prevent them—even in these difficult times.

The organization is called Invest In Milton. We have two weeks left to get this information into the hands of all voters so they can make an informed choice.

Here’s the website:

We need your help. There are a couple of things you can do.

1) Forward a link to this post to anyone you think needs to know the details of service cuts

2) Make a donation to help finance the final pieces of communication and other crucial activities. Any amount, whatever you can afford. You can donate online at the website, or send a check to:

Invest In Milton
99 Nancy Road
Milton, MA 02186