One month into the new school year, citizen fiscal watchdog John Marshall Lee addressed the city council Monday night asserting a call to action, “Where is the march, the walk or the protest in this community that says young lives matter?”
I am present tonight with only one red boot. The BS boot in RED continues as a reminder of real balance sheet problems. Have you looked at the August monthly financial report? Are you confused?
· Property taxes paid to the City in the first two months of the year show only $117 Million. That is the same number reported a month ago. Was any additional tax money collected in August, 2016? Is there a quiet tax protest in the City? Is there an error? Do you know?
· The Finance Department reports the receipt of $14,476,283 of revenue and projects another $2 Million later in the year under Municipal Share of Sales Tax Revenue. Your adopted budget showed only $9,874,826 for the whole year. The City variance is almost $5.5 Million as actual surplus that may grow to $7.5 Million by year end. This is a revenue surplus for you to allocate today.
· Turn to the Expense Budget for the Police Department. Ignore the variance column as it is in error. It appears that Finance may have adjusted the full time and over-time projections. How many officers are assumed? Is it the 478 Police Department employees that is impossible to hire before June 2017 or a lower realistic number? Finally, you authorized a budget of $102 Million and after two months Finance is telling you the number is projected to be $109 Million? Is this a game? Is it for real? Or is it just another report with errors?
The schools have reopened and about 10% of this school year is history. Where is the march, the walk or the protest in this community that says YOUNG LIVES MATTER? Are you ready to stand up and say: Black lives, brown lives, yellow lives, red lives and white lives matter? Do we need a parade for each group or will you act to recognize that truth tonight? I speak of our most vulnerable City children, those who enter school with no understanding of alphabet symbols and sounds as kindergartners, who still face a task of being able to read at the end of their first public school year, no matter how they entered public school nine months previous. They are for the most part ordinary or average youngsters, without appearance of special education issues, but poorly prepared because: another language is spoken at home; more time spent by parents on things other than reading to their child; or no pre-K at all. Those youth need rapid advancement that year through teacher, paraprofessional and literacy interventionist teams in every school. If they are touched three times each day by the team, reading readiness scores double. Without that team? We will see this year, if you allow this current tragic experiment to continue.
Some of you have jobs in education and others have relatives working in the schools. What do they see and tell you? One Council member was leader for a community exercise to show community solidarity reference to our public safety officers a week ago. Where is that same solidarity with three times as many education employees? Where is your financial support for education?
Tonight who will create a resolution and a second to remit $3-4 Million of the surplus to the school system tonight as a priority issue? How will you vote on the issue? Give the Board of Education the money to return the Kindergarten paraprofessionals immediately.
Mayor Ganim has not declared the school operating budget a priority at any time. So what? Does he have children in the school system? Does he even live in the City? I don’t know but he talks to you. Is this subject of “Young Lives Matter” a priority to you? You need to act on it. At this time you look more like a Mayoral Council rather than a Council for the people of the City. When you permit one-third of our youth to start public school in an unequal position relative to young suburban lives, can’t you predict that the results in future years will be disappointing? Can you see that many will become frustrated and leave school before graduation? But we will have spent money, but not with the mission in mind. We will not reach goals. Are you creating problems for a lifetime for people of our community? Eliminate this potential trajectory. Resolve to allocate these taxpayer dollars from the State to eliminate this inequity. Time will tell.