‘Mother’ of a budget

FI-EditorialOn a week when we ought to be focused on mothers and thanking them for raising us, caring for us and not selling us to the gypsies when they had the chance, thoughts drift elsewhere, toward Monday’s budget showdown.

Because when it comes to the 2013-14 municipal budget and all that goes with it, the main focus is on the children and the future generations that will thank the town for spending wisely and investing instead of once again giving short shrift to a needed project.

Of course that means the music instructional space and auditorium project better known as MISA, an acronym that is now town legend. It seems that every year at budget time we are facing the “final showdown” at the Representative Town Meeting level over MISA, but like clockwork it comes up again. At this point there have been more “final votes” on MISA than there have been Die Hard sequels, and as with the movies, there have been diminishing returns as the plots grow more and more repetitive.

By now the arguments both for and against MISA are known by heart. In many ways, observers of the RTM will be able to predict before Monday night’s meeting who will say what and why. But that doesn’t lessen the necessity of the fight. For those who have sweated out every detail of the fight to bring in a badly needed new auditorium and classroom space to Greenwich High School, the continued back and forth no doubt has become darkly humorous as it almost seems as though fighting for this project is like Sisyphus’ stone. But to turn back now would be beyond shortsighted and border on straight-out foolishness.

Great things happen because we invest in allowing them to happen. In Greenwich, we want our schools to be the best. We want our students to achieve to their fullest potential. So when the bill comes, who’s going to say, “Ooooh, wow, well, I really don’t want to help our kids that much.” Some will, but, it is hoped, not the majority. The need for this project has not lessened. In fact, it has grown.

It is the hope of this paper that a clear majority of the RTM will vote in favor of this strong budget and the MISA funding. No one is happy the price tag is higher than expected, but this is an investment in future generations that will pay off with new families moving to town and the idea of the “Greenwich character,” where you get more for your money than in other communities.

Critics will point to so-called “alternatives” like renovating the existing auditorium into classroom space, ignoring that the Board of Education thoroughly vetted these and found them lacking due to the delays they would cause, and which would only further spike the price. Even the board members who voted against the higher MISA price tag, caused by earlier delays, mind you, of both the unavoidable and the very avoidable variety, did not vote for any of the alternatives because they knew they would not help this project.

Voting on a huge budget is not easy, and this vote should not be taken lightly. Scrutiny of school spending is not a bad thing, with other major expenses on the horizon. But penny-pinching would be a mistake. This is not a hysterical cry of “Won’t someone please think of the children.” To deny the district what will benefit children for decades to come and to leave the district with substandard tools for achievement would be a a real error in judgment.

This is a weekend to think of our mothers, but on Monday night at 7 p.m. when it’s time for the last, it is hoped, fight on MISA funding, it’s a time to think of the children and what this town can do to help them.

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