While it is very responsible and laudable for Rockport’s Select Board to instruct the town manager to present a budget that shows a zero increase, or even a slight decrease, it is terribly misguided and demoralizing to demand 10 and 20 percent scenarios without some prior major input from the majority of the town’s taxpayers. And to then tie that threat into the school budget makes no sense at all. If the Select Board wants to appear as heroes they could present a town budget with a 2 percent reduction that carefully considers various impacts on the citizens of Rockport. A 10 percent or 20 percent sword of Damocles is, in my opinion, undemocratic. It is so drastic and devastating as to change the entire character of the town. And presenting that destructive budget to the townspeople denies them the option of first voting to accept or reject a more reasonable budget that still takes into account the worldwide economic downturn.

Recently, members of the Rockport Select Board, along with several community members, have devoted many thoughtful hours contributing their ideas to the Five Town Community School District and Maine School Administrative District 28 school boards. They have asked some very good questions and have contributed valuable ideas. They have also received a significant education as to the particular issues that these boards face. Given their recent exposure to this, it stuns me that they would still be threatening to alter the town budget as a reaction to any increase Rockport may see from the school budget. This makes no sense to me.

It is not the job of the Rockport Select Board to protect its citizens from the decisions of the school board, any more than it’s the Select Board’s job to protect the town citizens from the county budget, the state budget or the federal budget. It could, and should, lobby on behalf of the town, but to decimate the town’s budget because of unfortunate consequences of Augusta gutting the funding of the school budget doesn’t make sense. The harsh reality is that the school budget is created by an entirely different body that has a broader constituency than just Rockport. And the harsher reality is that even if the school board(s) were to create a zero increase budget, despite the huge shortfalls in state funding, Rockport would still experience an increase because it has increased in value relative to the other towns and is sending more students, both of which affect their proportion of the budget as calculated by the original CSD funding formula.

When I had the honor of serving as a member of the Select Board I made it my mission to improve the board’s ability to listen and communicate to the citizens. As a current member of the school board my focus (and challenge) has not changed. During the upcoming school budget meetings you can be sure that we all will do our best to balance the fiscal concerns with the input from the community regarding the extent of our cuts. I urge the present Rockport Select Board to do the same. Listen to the citizens as it relates to the town budget. Live and die by that sword and let the school board do the same with theirs.

Geoffrey Parker lives in Rockport.