by Neil Rowland

Why no SB2 for schools on the 2009 ballot?

Why does it have to be so hard?

I’m not saying it should be easy. No adult human being expects anything important to come easy. We expect to have to jump through some hoops. But what are we supposed to say when they move the hoops on us?

The people of Fremont know what they want. They want spending under control. Even in good times a sensible taxpayer wants government spending to be subject to some sort of restraint. In times like these it matters all the more. In times like these we don’t want to spend any more money than we have to, and we want accountability to see that every dollar is spent well.

We can’t do a lot at the moment about what’s happening at the federal level. Maybe in a couple of years we can try desperately to undo what is being done there now. Likewise at the state level. But at the town and school district level we can put up a fight every year.

And we will have to put up quite a fight. We’ve already got SB2 for the town portion and that’s starting to pay dividends. But the larger portion of our property tax bill is the school. It’s for the children you say? No it’s not. Higher public school spending does NOT correlate positively to better results. And no we don’t have to spend extra money to retain ‘good’ educators. The economy is bad everywhere. There’s nowhere they can go. And all those mandated expenditures at the school portion of the town meeting! Mandates? By whom? (The state is forbidden by law to enforce unfunded mandates. The Feds’ authority to do so is dubious.). What happens if we refuse to fund them? Might it not be worth our while to try the experiment, especially in times like these?

If we had SB2 for the school district then we as voters would be able to push back. The town meeting crowd would no longer control our destiny.

Keith Stanton collected more than enough signatures on his petition to get it on the ballot. He collected them in time. He started forming the required committee in November. He was jumping through all the hoops. Then they moved the next hoop.

Just at the stage in the process where the petition would be submitted to the school clerk (November 2008) there just happened to be no school clerk. There had been one just before. There was some back and forth with the Secretary of State’s office over whether a school clerk was required. In late January the school board accepted the warrant article. But there was another hoop. Keith needed to submit the charter commission member list to the school clerk, of which there still was none.

Later, when the school board found it convenient to have a school clerk in order that the town meeting would be legal, town clerk Lori Holmes was appointed school clerk. No one is sure on just what date this occurred. Peg Pinkham says there was no school clerk February 9. On February 24th Lori Holmes mailed that she had been appointed “a few weeks ago” but she couldn’t recall the exact date. By this time the deadline for to submit the petition to the school clerk had long since expired. This is either very convenient or very inconvenient depending on your point of view.

And so the SB2 process was stymied. The deadline slipped past with no school clerk. Keith’s hard work jumping through hoops was lost because they moved the next hoop beyond his reach. That’s really not fair to him but it’s grossly unfair to the taxpayers of Fremont.

Are you angry? Ask yourselves some questions: why was there no school clerk at that critical juncture? If the former clerk left then why the delay in appointing a new one? Was a school clerk really essential to the process? Could another way have been found? The minutes of the February 9 Budget Committee suggest that another way could have been found but that the school board couldn’t be bothered. And why does the school board find it easier to come up with a lawyer to fight the will of the people than to find a school clerk to assist the will of the people?

Just what is the school board’s real top priority? The taxpayers? The children? Judging from their pattern of actions I would say it’s neither.

What’s to stop them from pulling this stunt again? A lawsuit? Who has the money? The school board can fight the taxpayers using the taxpayers’ own money against them. How can we fight the school board? Collect the money for a lawsuit? Or vote them out at our next opportunity?

Clearly we have to do something.