The $3.5M override requested by the North Middlesex Regional School Committee went down last week in dismal failure. While members think about why the vote failed, they should consider pursuing a different approach as they move forward.
Many, if not most, of the residents of this district are revisiting their own personal budgets and tightening their belts. It is unlikely that they are going to give the district carte blanche just because they support the schools and the children.
And make no mistake: They DO SUPPORT THE SCHOOLS AND THE CHILDREN.
But the School Committee did a poor job of selling the need for this override. Finance Committees -- whose task it is to advice the selectmen and Town Meeting voters on budget matters -- were left unsatisfied with the level of explanation they received.
It goes without saying that the school budget is a massive document. But it is incumbent upon the towns' financial planners to understand all aspects of the budget. That includes not only textbooks, lab supplies and the like, but salaries and benefits. Every line item must be scrutinized. Just as the towns have sought ways to reduce their budgets, so must the district.
Until the School Committee and administration take seriously their obligation to explain what it is they are seeking, they are unlikely to get it from already stressed taxpayers.