Stop 14.4% tax increase, adopt SB2 voting

To the Editor:

During the Hollis Brookline Co-op School District budget hearing on Feb. 18, the Co-op Budget Committee reported that Brookline’s tax rate for the co-op will increase 14.4 percent if all warrant articles pass as written.

As the former chair of the Co-op Budget Committee, a 14.4 percent increase is unacceptable, especially when the co-op student population has decreased by 11.6 percent since 2010.

This double-digit increase for Brookline taxpayers is driven by a growing operating budget and a two-year Sanbornized professional staff contract. The average proposed raise for teachers is 6.7 percent the first year and another 6.7 percent the second year. If adopted, some teachers will realize pay increases of 15 percent or more over the next two years.

While teachers deserve reasonable raises, a double 6.7 percent increase is simply too much for taxpayers. Most residents do not receive similar pay increases. Comparatively, U.S. military pay increases have been 1.0 percent, 1.0 percent and 1.3 percent over the past three years.

Articles for next year’s higher operating budget, as well as the teachers contract, will be voted upon during the annual co-op district meeting on Wednesday, March 23, at 7 p.m. If you are unable to attend this meeting and cast your vote, you are out of luck. Nonetheless, the small group of people attending the evening meeting will instead decide for you.

For this reason, we need to adopt SB2, which provides all-day, private, ballot voting on each warrant article on the first Tuesday of March, occurring simultaneously with town elections. If you are out of town, you can vote by absentee ballot.

Under SB2, the district meeting, called the deliberative session, is held in late January or early February to debate and amend the warrant articles; thereby preparing the warrant for the all-day ballot vote in March.

Undeniably, SB2 increases the opportunity for voter participation, making it possible for everyone to vote. Importantly, it affords voters time to carefully consider their vote on each of the warrant articles. Moreover, SB2 eliminates hasty decision making at the district meeting, the need to attend two or more nights of co-op meetings, multiple reconsideration of votes as well as tabling of articles, and it enables fact checking.

Please vote Yes to adopt SB2 on the March 8 ballots for both the co-op and Brookline school districts. A Yes vote will give voters a greater opportunity to have a voice in budgeting for our children’s education.

Diane Pauer