The Berkshire Eagle has a nice update on this year’s budget battle in Williamstown. Professor of Political Science Sam Crane seems heavily involved in the push for another Proposition 2 1/2 override. A careful study of the forthcoming campaign, as well as last year’s successful one, would make for a great poltical science thesis.

However, as happy as I am to see Williams faculty take leadership roles in the local community, I take issue with some of Crane’s comments:

He [Crane] added that the acrimony in the community surrounding such a vote is a result of “the politics of evasion in Boston and Washington,” which puts pressure on communities.

“It’s uncomfortable and no one likes it, but that’s the way it works,” Crane said.

Why is it the fault of “Washington” that Williamstown has a budget deficit? Does Crane think that there is some big pile of money buried under the Lincoln Memorial that could be used to help out Mt. Greylock Regional High School? Crane might have a point in blaming “Boston” since Proposition 2 1/2 does put serious constraints on local communities. But, again, it isn’t “Boston” that created Proposition 2 1/2, it is the voters of Massachusetts. Moreover, the voters of Williamstown can, democratically, decide to set their taxes at whatever level they decide to fund whatever good works they choose.

I suspect that Crane realizes all this and that his talk of “evasion” is a rhetorical ploy to increase the likelihood that the forthcoming override attempt will succeed. In his place, I would do the same.

For all those wondering where the College stands on the issue, we have:

During last year’s crisis, Williams College donated $250,000 to help shore up the situation. Last Wednesday, Williamstown Town Manager Peter Fohlin confirmed in an interview with WNAW Radio that there have been some talks between Mount Greylock officials and the college about this year’s predicament.

The fix is in.

But Williams spokesman James G. Kolesar said no decision has been made. “The college is certainly interested, along with the rest of the community, and concerned about the situation at the high school, and is trying to stay well informed about the situation,” he said.

Kolesar said last year’s donation was out of the ordinary. “The deal was that the situation was so dire it was hoped that a one-time infusion could help buy time for the whole community to work toward a long-term solution,” he said.

Turns out that the community — despite (because of?) the leadership of folks like Crane and Ralph Bradburd — has little interest in working toward a long-term solution. In fact, the community seems to have decided that Williams College will step in to pick up whatever funding MGRHS needs.

Note that the override amount has been set at $530,292. One would think that this amount would be enough to cover whatever shortfalls currently exist at MGRHS. One would be wrong:

But even if voters approve an override, the Mount Greylock Regional School District would still face a $743,549 shortfall in its proposed budget of $9.2 million. If an override fails, the school deficit would increase by another $300,677.

So, the proponents of the override (presumably including folks like Crane and Bradburd) set an amount that is not enough to pay for everything that they want to see at MGRHS. Why would they do this?

1) They think that $500,000 is the most that the voters will approve. This seems implausible since the voters approved last years override of about the same amount by almost 2:1.

2) The school budget request has been padded so that the missing $750,000 won’t be terribly missed. It would be perfectly reasonable for the school committee to pad things in this way, despite their protestations to the contrary.

3) Proponents expect that the College will come through with another $250,000 or even more.

I vote for 3.

Print  •  Email