T. Mogul: School Department cannot be blamed

When will it end, the underlying current of hatred toward all things education in Auburn?

I moved back to Maine. This is where meaningful education is afoot. I dropped anchor here instead of Portland. I arrived when No Child Left Behind was wrapping its fingers around the collective throat of public education. That is a law based on falsified data from the Houston (Texas) School System of how to get inner-city public schools to reach all children. Those children will soar to the heights of educational superiority simply because ... well, I don’t know why. They just will. It is the law.

How many other things touted by GW turned out to be a teaming pile of horse pucky?

Meanwhile, Auburn was about to embark on a multi-headed agenda to curb local taxation, get a new library and rebuild old city hall in order to attract new business.

First, reassess all properties, then tax 100-plus percent of fair market value. The new library is raising all the money needed for that project (wink wink). New old city hall needed more space, so let's rehabilitate old now new city hall to be the center of Auburn’s rebirth.

Oops. Too much empty space. Force the school department to move in, then the police department — that will defray the HVAC costs, filling up the space.

Auburn schools cannot be blamed, since they were cut nine of the past 10 years.

You can’t think outside the box when you are Gorilla-glued inside of it.

Todd Mogul, Auburn

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 's picture

Enough Already!

I think what this comes down to is one of misconception ruling the day. Auburn has a remarkable school system that serves both our students and our community exceptionally well. It is run by highly qualified administrators, staff and teachers and governed, at least at present, by a school committed that has exhibited tremendous leadership in creating a well thought out, balanced and responsible budget. During the last ten years, Auburn's local contribution to our school system has been essentially flat, hovering right around $15.2 million, around 38% of our city's total budget. This has funded our schools well below the state's EPS level, and we were able to do that due to waivers we requested and received. But those waivers are going away and we have to be at 100% of EPS in three years. This is not a scare tactic, it is law. And, if another bill, currently being debated, passes, Auburn could be severely penalized for being below EPS.

During the same time, our municipal expenditures have risen steadily from $29.3 to $36.4 million. And yet, the prevailing belief is that the School Department has been driving the budget. That is simply untrue. The ordinance that the Council is quoting ties the City's budget to the CPI-U. This year Auburn should be limited to a 1.7% increase over the current year's expenditures, not budget. (This is important because the city is using the budget as the baseline not the expenditure; remember the property tax error that caused a spending freeze. The city council isn't living within the ordinance either.) So, the case might be made that during this period of time, we have in fact, been funding the increase on the city side of the budget on the backs of the school department.

Having said that, this Council is all about "economic development" but the one department in the city that can directly improve economic development by increasing the value of our city is treated like the red-headed step child. Enough already!

Of course the other thing to keep in mind, is that many of our citizens fall into the "no growth" mentality. Asked how they would like their property value to increase, they say, "No!" because all they see is the tax. Rightfully so! I guess they are right to believe that an increase in property value will lead to an increase in taxes, but it could be a case of the value of the city goes up, business value increases and property taxes actually go down. Remember, our municipal budget is tied to the CPI-U, regardless of total tax valuation base!

Some very wise business man in L-A, I wish I could remember who, said something like, "If we funded our schools properly, we wouldn't need the LAEGC." I concur!


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