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Last week I wrote about the constraints that Massachusetts placed on its school districts nearly 40 years ago. Under the same constraints, South Kingstown spending (since the year 2000) would have trended very differently. Each year, SKSD is spending $10mm to $12mm more than if normal inflation been applied over the last 20 years. For now, ignore the additional factor that enrollment literally dropped by a third over the same time period.
In 1980, the State of Massachusetts recognized the limitations and threats of relying too heavily on expanding property taxes to fund our public education systems. Proposition 2 ½ was passed to limit the increases a town could levy through its property taxes each year. Named for the enacted cap of 2.5%, any town that needed to increase its levy beyond it could do so, but only through a town wide referendum. For the last 35 years or so, Massachusetts has tamed its property taxes and runaway school spending.
Rhode Island enacted our own, lighter version, of a tax cap. Unfortunately we chose 4% as our limit and waited almost 30 years to implement it. During the lead up to the cap, can you imagine what districts did? In South Kingstown, we ramped our baseline spending up between 6% to 12% each year despite losing about 100 kids per year from our enrollment.
The chart here shows how this played out over the last 2 decades.
On Tuesday, November 27, 2018, I attended the South Kingstown School Committee meeting. The recently elected Vice Chair, Sarah Markey, is also the Assistant Executive Director for the National Education Association of Rhode Island (NEARI). The vast majority of the employees working in the South Kingstown School Department are represented by this labor union.
Last year, Markey attempted to get appointed to a vacant school committee position.
It’s been almost three decades since we have had balance of power in Rhode Island’s representation of U.S. Senators in Washington DC. Senator John Chafee(R) and Claiborne Pell(D), both highly regarded and respected across party lines, made Rhode Islanders proud at home and in Washington DC.
Time has come for Rhode Island to do it again.
In assessing the effort to keep the PawSox in Rhode Island, it is important to review the role of General Treasurer Seth Magaziner. The state treasurer was asked to analyze the costs and opine on affordability, as would be expected with a large borrowing like this. Mr. Magaziner opined in October 2017 and in June 2018 as numbers changed along with the terms of the deal and then opined again recently, finally giving a nod to the deal.
But what everyone needs to know is that $350 million dollars in debt for Pawtucket’s other post-employment benefits (OPEB) for former employees was not used in his analysis. This is more than twice the city’s pension debt! In fact, it was purposely left out by Magaziner. Including OPEB debt would obviously have made the City of Pawtucket’s borrowing look dangerous and ill-conceived. Ignoring OPEB allowed for an outrageous abuse of taxpayer dollars by the treasurer.
Think about it. Seth Magaziner violated his own risk recommendations by hiding a liability in his analysis; this is the type of stuff they did with 38 Studios. Mr. Magaziner owes it to taxpayers to lay all the cards on the table and not to fall in line with political winds. Had he actually laid the cards on the table, looked at all the debt, and been transparent and honest, the PawSox deal would appropriately have never seen the light of day.
As can be seen in the comprehensive Debt Affordability Study, Pawtucket already exceeds Magaziner’s limits for debt, along with Woonsocket and Providence, before even considering borrowing for the new stadium or the $350 million in OPEB liability, which the board is to reconsider as a component next year. This $350 million is so significant and overwhelming, it would be irresponsible for any treasurer to think Pawtucket absorbing new debt was a good idea.
With collective bargaining, opposing sides are supposed to negotiate in good faith. Perpetual contracts provide little motivation for a union to reach an agreement. This is great for unions, bad for already overtaxed voters. Another case of legislators motivated by self interest.
— Bruce Waidler (@Bruce_Waidler) March 16, 2018
On a day 200 Rhode Islanders learned their jobs at Greencore are gone, Raimondo’s taxpayer funded PR team says RI has the 9th best economy. Was there a press release from the PR team 2 weeks ago saying RI is the 7th worst state for business according to Wall Street 24/7?…..1/2 https://t.co/LrTNyTAAcT
— Brandon S. Bell (@RIGOPChairman) March 15, 2018
How about 3 months ago saying RI is the 7th worst run state? Of course not. Just keep repeating "It's working,” it got you a 37% approval rating. 2/2
— Brandon S. Bell (@RIGOPChairman) March 15, 2018
So the theory that Trump won these kinds of districts due to racism and then there's a 20 point swing well… what happened? There was 17 months of sensitivity training or something?
— Matt Stoller (@matthewstoller) March 14, 2018
Students across the US are learning an important lesson at this hour, which is that whether you are allowed to walk out of class as a statement depends entirely on whether the school authorities approve of that statement.
— Walter Olson (@walterolson) March 14, 2018