We caught the public hearing tonight on the overall city budget on Bevcam. The speakers consisted of four City Hall regulars. Most of us in the school community were tied up with last day of school and spring sports commitments, and the general feeling is that we have made our points repeatedly throughout the process, and there is not much left to say that could affect this year's budget.
Among the topics covered by those who did speak were the often-cited trash fee, the unfairness of the 3-minute time limit given to speakers at City Hall public hearings (although most speakers were actually allowed to go at least double that), and the confusing nature of the city budget document.
Councilor Jim Latter, along with at least one of the speakers, questioned Finance Director John Dunn, as to why the document could not at least be made searchable, which was a question we wondered ourselves. It is virtually impossible for an average citizen to discern anything from the way the budget is presented. The contrast is especially clear when compared to the final school budget, which was indexed, searchable, well organized, and generally attempted to present complex numbers as clearly as possible to the public.
Dunn said the city did not yet have the capabilities.
So as a public service, we spent five minutes running the 126-page document through Adobe Acrobat's OCR [optical character recognition] feature, and post here a searchable version of the FY11 City Budget. It's still confusing, but at least its searchable.
The budget will be voted on next Monday at a 7:00 pm meeting at City Hall. Council President Mike Cahill invited those who spoke tonight, as well as others, to email him with any further comments, which he said would be made part of the public record.
6/22 UPDATE: Today's Salem News also reports on the lack of speakers at last night's public hearing.
This site aims to inform and mobilize Beverly parents to take an active role in all issues related to the funding and operation of the city's schools. It was launched in the spring of 2008, when the city saw its first-ever override attempt fail, followed by the closure of a nearly-new elementary school. Subsequent years have seen further cuts that have led to larger class sizes across the district. While the opening of an impressive new high school and plans to replace the city's aging middle school give us reason to be optimistic, the school community must be ever vigilant in demanding appropriate school funding by city and state governments, and better community communications from the district and School Committee.