The $3 Million Elephant — Or $8 Million. Or $30 Million

Last Sunday, retired businessman and 35-year resident Jim Goodrich offered some thoughts here on the town budget — including the pension liability.

His “06880” piece elicited strong reactions — including several explanations of the pension fund.  Today, Jim addresses those responses.

You’re never too old to learn.

By going to the recent Board of Finance meeting, thinking about that meeting, then posting observations that generated considerable feedback, I’ve picked up a bit more understanding about my town.  I find it useful.  Maybe you will too.

I called the pension fund “elephant in the room” a $3 million problem.  Is it really an $8 million problem — or $30 million?

The answer is:  It’s all 3 problems.  Here’s — in rounded numbers — is why.

The $30 million refers to an unfunded shortfall in the town’s obligation to the pension fund for municipal employees.  (Teachers are not included; they’re covered at the state level.)

The $8 million refers to the annual amount the town must pay for the next 30 years, in order to fulfill its pension obligations.

Now it gets really interesting.

The $3 million represents a reduction to the $8 million annual payment the actuaries say the town should pay into the pension fund.  Why would Westport pay only $5 million of the $8 million into the fund, creating a larger long-term obligation?

This is not where our pension fund is. We hope.

The answer is pretty straightforward.  By underpaying the pension fund, town and Board of Ed budgets can be more fully funded without having to raise taxes as much, or at all.  Of course, the amount of the underpayment must be paid someday — just not now.

There are all kinds of discussions knowledgeable people can have on this point — and much of the subtext at the recent Board of Finance meeting dealt with this issue.  What seems to be going on is “fiscal responsibility” versus “competent resource management” in balancing important community needs and the taxpayer’s ability to pay.  The BOF is the place these discussions should take place.

Currently, town and school officials are finalizing details to show what a total of $2.6 million cut in funding will mean to educational programs, as well as vital services.  The public does not yet know the exact cuts to be made — but they are expected to be serious.

What does “serious” mean?  It could easily be headcount cuts to police, fire and teaching personnel, plus public works and all other town departments.  What may get hit are all the “S”s – safety, security and schools — as well as Westport’s large “Q” (quality of life).

So pay attention.  We may know within a few days what the cuts will bring.  By Wednesday the BOF will have voted — and then it’s a done deal.

For a moment, consider what would happen if the BOF went in another direction and simply reinstated the $2.6 million to the town and school budgets.  Would the world come to an end?

No.  But taxes would go up by an average of about $260 for each Westport household.  There are 2 people in my household.  That’s $130 for each of us for the year.  It’s $2.50 a week — 36 cents a day.  For safety, security, excellent schools and quality of life — I don’t know about you, but it seems like a bargain to me.

(What do you think?  To contact the Board of Finance, click here.)

40 responses to “The $3 Million Elephant — Or $8 Million. Or $30 Million

  1. Dennis Wong

    Life is about trade-offs. I look at the desired outcomes and then determine if they are achievable and affordable, and if and as necessary, make the adjustment to achieve an acceptable result.

    I have seen nice mission statements and generalities, but not any clear objectives and measurable goals as to the town’s role and responsibility for “safety, security and schools as well as quality of life.”

    Without this clear understanding of agreed upon results it is difficult to weigh what a family’s overall spend should be in terms of tax dollars and their other out-of-pockets expenses.

    So I suggest we measure our words and our works so we see if we are getting the most from our tax dollars.

  2. link showing $, Federal Funds Congressman Himes’ office has managed to deposit in Westport, including Public School System, from DC: http://himes.house.gov/uploads/2009%20Town%20Report_Westport1.pdf

  3. Jim Goodrich

    Mr. Wong, you may not have been paying attention. Simply review postings on this blog and WestportNow to see tangible results of Westport’s response to emergencies and accolades to the school system (and results of individual student achievement). Mission statements are, by design, high minded so if you want something more “boots on the ground”, for example, read John Dodig’s writings on “21st Century Schools”. I’m sure someone in the school system and/or the town’s emergency folks, or the town’s Human Services Department, or… etc., etc. would be happy to give you a personal walk through of what is done with tax dollars and the results. You can certainly speak out, but you also have a responsibiliy to do a little homework.

  4. Le Boiled Grenouille

    Ribbet.

    Mr. Goodrich manages to pooh-pooh yet another tax increase “only $0.36 a day”. His logic, applied sequentially for the past 10-12 years, glosses over the calculus of compounding accumulations and the physics of taxes, to wit:

    Westport taxes always go up, never down. This year’s $260 average increase will likely compound over and over. Westport taxes historically grow well above the rate of inflation. The $260 this year represents a likely 10 year cumulative increase of nearly $3,300 for the average Westport family.

    Now apply that logic to last year’s increase, and the increase 2 years ago, and ….. you get the picture.

    The nearly $16,000 average yearly tax burden this year was only $8,000 a mere 10-12 years ago. We got here from the drip-drip-drip of $0.36 per day tax increases each year, every year.

    Yours truly,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_frog

    Ribbet

  5. The Dude Abides

    I am totally confused. Mr. Woog to Mr. Wong. First it is a undefunded 3 million and then 30 million and Mr. Goodrich’s credentials only seem to be that he has lived here for 35 years and attends meetings. To me, it is just deficit spending cloaked by fancy Wall Street- Enron
    adjectives. Anonymous (hey dude!) seems to indicate some available federal aid here. The “bottom line,” is that we need to “pay as we go” (sorry another cliche) and if it costs $260.00 a year, so be it. Raise it, make cuts or whatever, but a balanced budget is the goal. Forget this notion of leaving it to our grandchildren, we be paying it back in our life times. Pass the reefer, this is far too intense for me. They didn’t teach math in law school.

  6. Luisa Francoeur

    Mr Ribbet is very facile with numbers but, not being in the “numbers” business myself, it is hard to understand exactly what he means by using the terms “compound” and “cumulative increase” as it relates to the actual components of the tax bill . Yes, I can see that taxes go up. I prefer to think of why we even have taxes to begin with (to pay for community expenses) and then look at whether we want those services or not. If we want the services, or what they bring to our community, then we pay the tax bill.
    As to Mr Wong’s post, his generalities do not address what he thinks the specific outcomes, objectives and goals should be.
    Do we want Public Works to plow our roads for every storm? for only a 6 inch snowfall? Do we need the sand on our beach to be redistributed after a storm or will we be ok with a rock beach as existed in the 1950’s at Compo? Do we want the fire and police to respond to every call, or just some of them?
    These are just a couple of the questions that one might ask in reference to how our taxes are spent. There are a host of other questions.
    As our town Boards meet to discuss the issues, let’s remember what the numbers represent.

  7. I agree with Mr. Goodrich that I need to do more homework.

    I was hoping that through Dan’s blog there would be a conversation on the basic service expectations of the many constituents in this community relevant to the cost. For example, insofar as school, I believe some parents have expectations that their children will be accepted by a prestigious college. In fact, to achieve this goal, parents spend a great deal of addtional money on private tutors and services outside of Staples. If this is a key success measure, how are we doing?

    So I was just wondering if the people in the community have the same goals and priorities as the decision makers or are they vastly different. I read where Avi Kaner wants to spare the education budget while cutting other areas. Then some are calling the proposed cuts “irresponsible.”

    Our First Selectman talks about a two percent tax increase to provide essential services. I want to understand what is “essential” in specific layman’s term.

    BTW. If this conversation would be better in a different venue, or not at all, then so be it. As Gilda Ratner’s Emily Litella would say “Never mind.”

    In any event, I appreciate that Mr. Goodrich took the time to respond to my comments. Thank you.

  8. A couple of points:

    1) Gordon Joseloff’s original budget proposal for this year was a 7.75% increase – while NOT even fully funding this year’s pension obligtaion. With proper pension funding, the increase would have been over 10% THIS YEAR ALONE.

    2) I watched both of the Board of Finance meetings. Avi Kaner said the cuts should be “prioritized.” He also did not vote to “cut” the town budget; rather, he voted to “cut this year’s increase.” As an aside, these votes were almost unanimous 7-0. The partisan disconnect came on the school side, where Avi Kaner, Charlie Haberstroh, and Ed Iannone opposed the magnitude of the cuts proposed by Ken Wirfel and Allyson Stollenwerck.

  9. Dan– In short, it seems like a bargain to me, too. –pb

  10. Dennis Wong

    Thank you.

    I think the questions and points raised by Ms. Francouer are Michael are useful, in respect to more focused discussions by having on the table specific wants (and needs) and priorities.

    Also I was confused as to the word “cuts” that usually means less than the current budget rather than the lowering of proposed increases that to me are not cuts.

    As to The Dude Abides, I agree that we should pay as we go. My questions to all of us are, in what direction do we go, and how far do we go?

    Have a great Westport Day.

  11. Harvard Man

    In short, it seems nobody knows what the hell is going on? A point lingers that continues to bother me and enunciated by both Mr. Goodrich and Mr. Wong: Is the expectations of our school system to gain admission to a “presidigous college?” Is that what we are doing here? This places a huge “expectation” on the students and may/may not be fulfilled. I always thought education was to open a child’s eyes to the love of learning and NOT what SAT’s scores are needed to be accepted Harvard (who by the way have caught on to Staples’ standard resume and gone to inner city of find some diversity on campus).

  12. Off the subject of budgets. Harvard University:

    From the Boston Globe, regarding the 1,565 freshman spots available:

    The applicant pool reached an unprecedented level of achievement, university officials said. More than 2,900 scored a perfect 800 on their SAT critical reading test, and 3,500 scored perfectly on the SAT math test. Nearly 3,700 were ranked first in their senior class.

  13. Harvard Man

    Indeed, Michael, they are getting the creme of the crop as applicants but that does not mean even those with perfection are gaining admission. For in the 90’s, the university, as did Princton and Brown, realized that their graduates were all white male clones with similar backgrounds and beliefs. Thus, they have migrated to diverse backgrounds, particularly from the inner city, for their admitted students.
    This is why they offer free tuition for any student with a family income of less than
    $60,000.00. And thus, the Staples’s soccer player who is President of the Class, plays in the band, does BBB on his spring break and is a member of the church choir is having trouble getting into a “presidigous” colleges. The admission folks are on to this “clone” and that is unfortunate for those with such aspirations.

  14. Innocent Bystander

    It seems a pity that focal point of all this budget talk is the underfunded pensions of city employees. I have heard from the forums at ACE Hardware to the steam room at the YMCA, complaints that many of these employees are getting too much after 20 or 30 years of service to the town of Westport. You watch, these employees will end up on the short end of the stick in the long run. They will probably try to cut their pensions in the name of higher edcuation. As a product of such education in this town, I have always thought it overrated and a rationality to homeowners of why they are paying such outrageous taxes.

  15. Innocent Bystander – Westport is not alone. However, other towns have taken long-term measures. See Greenwich’s budget for example. They’ve migrated to High Deductible Health Plans as well as eliminated expensive PPO and POS options. Westport’s health insurance on the other hand is chugging along at a 20% annual increase. Greenwich has also opened contracts and negotiated defined contribution pension plans. In other words, Greenwich is taking an active approach vs. our passive approach. Their budget even has a section looking forward to 2012 – something Westport should do to avoid surprises next year.

  16. Innocent Bystander

    Thanks Michael for your insight. So does the underfunded estimates deal with primarily the health insurance end of their retirement or the actual pension or both?? I can almost comprehend the health side but when you promise a 30 year veteran of town employment a certain percentage of his income at the age of 65, I think you should abide by that promise. Come hell or high water or new lights on the football field.

  17. You said it, Dan, it’s a bargain. Well worth it for our great schools, nice town, and security.

  18. Some observations:

    “I watched both of the Board of Finance meetings. Avi Kaner said the cuts should be “prioritized.” He also did not vote to “cut” the town budget; rather, he voted to “cut this year’s increase.” As an aside, these votes were almost unanimous 7-0. The partisan disconnect came on the school side, where Avi Kaner, Charlie Haberstroh, and Ed Iannone opposed the magnitude of the cuts proposed by Ken Wirfel and Allyson Stollenwerck”

    #1: In all cases, the proposed and voted cuts were in the increase for 2010-11

    “By Wednesday the BOF will have voted — and then it’s a done deal.”

    #2 It will NOT be a done deal. The RTM will vote the first week in May. It can accept the BOF budget. reduce it further, or restore (by a 70% vote) BOF cuts.

  19. Innocent bystander – the unfunded liabilities are in addition to the health care increase. Also, the retiree health fund, called OPEB, must be funded with a trust. The town i believe is currently funding OPEB on an “as you go” basis. I think everyone agrees that promises must be kept. The issue is the going forward piece, not past obligations.

  20. Lawrence Zlatkin

    The elephant in the room is whether we have competitive pension and compensation structures for our public employees. The shortfall in the budget is a drop in the future bucket and the reality is that public employees may have pensions and compensation beyond what our states and municipalities can afford over the long run. Should public employees enjoy better health and pension plans than the taxpayers in the private sector for whom they work? I’m struggling with why this should be the case.

    We have wonderful services and dedicated public employees. But, over the long run, we cannot bankrupt the town and its taxpayers to provide benefits that are out of sync with reality and the private sector.

  21. The Dude Abides

    My belief as an attorney for the U.S. Treasury Department was always that I was giving up salary for future retirement and benefits. I think this is a motivation for just about any public servant, from the military to legislative to local police/fire/maintenance. I am not sure you can change this mindset or promise midstream. Further, I am not so sure you will attract as eager or able employees if you do. I realize that many of the problems of the auto industry stemmed from these issues but I do not believe, as Mr. Zlatkin concludes, that providing incentive packages to public employees will bankrupt the town. There are certainly many pockets of revenue that can be explored as well as a careful analysis of cost cutting measures.

  22. John McCarthy

    The Dude Abides,
    Is the tradeoff between current salary and future retirement benefits still true? Or has the frog been boiled to a point where public employees have higher salaries and higher retirement benefits? This WSJ article which reviews stats from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that public sector employees now make more in salary and retirement benefits than those inthe private sector,
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704281204575003101210295246.html?KEYWORDS=government

  23. It seems the town is winging it on all of the issues discussed on this blog, and as a result falling behind. Maybe we need a consulting firm or town executive. I have heard that our pension advisory firm has no municipal experience.

  24. The Dude Abides

    Thank you to Mr. McCarthy for an insightful referral to an enlighenting article although I don’t care to subscribe to the WSJ so I could not enjoy its entirety. My guess is that in the ten year period (1998-2008) that the article examines, that public employees did make strides in compensation in greater degree than those in the private sector. However, they, in most cases, were far underpaid to begin with. I do know that I was making approximately 1/3 of what I eventually made in the private sector following the first banking crisis. But without getting too far away from the issue at hand, what position in the private sector do you compare a policeman or a fireman or paramedic? And is there some kind of innate discrimation or jealousy that perhaps a public servant make more than its benevolent taxpayer? Have they become or always been some kind of second class citizen? I don’t have the answers to these questions but as the discussion on this blog suggest, maybe it is time to start exploring whether the flog is truly gasping for breath or boiled to death.

  25. Dead Poet's Society

    I realize that this will be viewed as complete heresy, especially in this town, but I think that teachers are vastly overpaid. They work 6 months out of the year, are job secure in their positions thanks to unions and a strong bond by fellow teachers and their performance is rarely evaluated except for yearly testing of which they can horsefeed to their students beforehand. Before we start cutting cops and fireman’s pensions, maybe we ought to take a look at our educational system. There seems to be no limit to funds we will pour in that direction so that we can pound our chests about our school system and place college window stickers on the back of our SUV’s.

  26. Catherine Davis

    Regarding the Dead Poet’s comment about teachers being “rarely evaluated except for yearly testing”, I’ll let Mr. Dodig straighten THAT out. Regarding the assumption that SHS is only about getting into a “hot” college, HAH! Take a look at the wonderful vocational classes they offer and huge efforts the staff makes to give a well rounded education to every student no matter their intellectual capacity or interest. Of course SHS is proud of where a large percentage of their students go, but it is not their raision d’etre.

    However, I appreciate the lean in this rational discussion towards whether or not muncipal employees should be guaranteed a high rate of return on their pension with the town making up the difference if the market takes a hit, when no one in the private sector has that guarantee. I, also, am not a math person and my eyes glaze over at the word “pension”, but as I understand it, the reason the town is now hit with this HUGE payment to the town employees’ pension for the next who knows how many years(NOTHING to do with teachers) is because the bottom fell out of the interest market and WE are required to make up the difference. To be incredibly simple about it, that’s not fair. Why aren’t muncipal employees subject to the vagaries of our economy as the rest of us are? How long does it take and how do we go about changing their pension plan to a more realistic one?And shouldn’t they be willing to change to save jobs? Perhaps we taxpayers could suck up that $.36 a day if we knew the pension plan was being ammended to recognize the current economic realities. This is a wonderful community discussion, and I am learning so much. Although we probably should all be outside getting our Vitamin D re-fills!

  27. Luisa Francoeur

    Lots of good comments on the pension issue. As to the term “private sector”, that only means that the employer is not the government. Is it a fair comparison to lump anyone in that category together when looking at pensions?

    And I think one reason this comes up, Catherine, is that WE are the employer. As such, WE are responsible in the same way that any employer will have to figure out how to handle the “vagaries of the economy”. Westport decisions are the subject of public discussion but private business is not.

    The Dude makes a very good point about who in our society has “worth” and for what reason and who decides the compensation and why.

  28. Jim Goodrich

    Le Boiled Grenouille, The Dude Abides, Harvard Man, Innocent Bystander, Curious, Dead Poet’s Society,

    The scene: Two dogs staring intently at a computer screen.

    One says to the other,

    “Go ahead and hit send. This is the internet. They’ll never know you’re a dog”.

    Le Boiled Grenouille, thank you for clarifying your species! To the rest of you old dogs (and regular humans) I’ve got a few tidbits.

    Le B. G., Westport taxes have gone up. Please also remember that the Market was somewhere below 6,000 in 1992 and is now close to 11,000.

    Hmmm.

    Hey Dude, You want to know my credentials but sign as “The Dude Abides”. I love it! So as not to be snarky, I’ll give you a few highlights. I was an Infantry Officer (platoon leader, company commander, operations officer) in the mid to late 60’s. associate director of admisions for a college. Worked my way up in a Fortune 50 business services company where my biggest responsibility was for half the organization’s revenue generation. Later I was a partner in one of the oldest consulting companies in the U.S.

    I took early retirement 11 years ago and for the last ten years have served on a few town committees, the Board of a non-profit, coached and advised high school teams/groups and, best of all for me, I’ve been a substitute teacher at Staples where my kids all attended.

    I have decent kit of evaluative tools, pretty good insights and a great appreciation for Staples students.

    Harvard Man, There are currently two Staples grads at Harvard, one Staples grad who completed H in ’07 (my daughter), and two who finished in ’06. Staples students do just fine in earning admissions in the “top” schools. But that is NOT the point.

    Any place Staples kids go they succeed because they can think critically, they can write, they are achievers in science and the arts and when they return (from a full spectrum of colleges) they tell their teachers how far ahead of their classmates they feel in the essential skills needed to compete in college (and in life).

    And it’s not just in academic areas. Read on this blog the successes recent Staples students have had in the arts (Conner Murphy, Daryl Wein, Peter Duchan, Justin Paul – among others).

    To those who weighed in on the pension question. I understand that there is planning/thinking about changing the pension plan to a more 401k-like for future hires.

    I have heard that recent market improvements have mitigated some of the loses from the last “correction”. Point is, apparently something is being done.

    Dead Poet, The school year lasts about 10 months (September through June). If teachers are so “overpaid”, how is it that most live an hour’s drive away?

    Curious, It (the budget) WILL be a done deal for the BOF recommendations. If you watched both BOF meetings then you might have watched last year’s RTM meetings about the budget. Anyone interested in keeping Town and BOE budgets whole lost sleep over those meetings. But, this year is a good deal less onerous than last.

    Please also remember that there were significant reductions last year resulting is cancelled classes and increased slass sizes. Increasing class size has all kinds of ramifications, but that is a subject for another time.

  29. Carl A. Swanson

    Well Mr. Goodrich, I guess you told them! You must feel better. It is obvious that you are so special that you truly belong here in the nirvana of Westport and have such superior knowledge of the town that you have no reluctance to stand up and be counted. Further, your grasp of all details of the rather complex blog discussion allows you to condemn those who wish to remain anonoymous and in doing so, will probably stifle further discussion. In the immortal words of our founder: “I bad. You right.” Proceed directly to the doghouse my fellow thinkers.

  30. Jim Goodrich

    Mr. Swanson,

    I though I was just answering a question asked by The Dude about credentials. The story about the dogs came from a New Yorker cartoon years ago. I saw humor in it then and still do now. As for “old dogs”, I am one so… And the length of the post? Well, I’ve been out of town for 24 hours and there were a lot of worthwhile posts to respond to.

    Sorry if I response irritated you and anyone else as well. It was not my intent.

  31. Carl A. Swanson

    I don’t think this forum requires apologies but the notion that those who wish anonymity are some kind of cowards concerns me. Certainly there is a freedom to express oneself behind a call name or pseudonym. This is the nature of the blog and the computer world. Writers have done so for centuries as well. That being said, I commend you for opening up a dialogue that has certainly educated me as well as seemingly others on this site. It is an interesting issue that has far reaching reprecussions as the economy attempts to recover. While certainly tangential subjects have been proached, it is the dialogue that is important. Unfortunately, after you opened the door, you seemed to want to shut it on your own terms. I find that somewhat selfish. Sorry.

  32. Thank you, Mr Swanson, for putting our anonymity in perspective. We could be a BOF, or RTM, or even a BOE member. We could be a PTA parent or a PTA president. Or we could be just another Westporter. As long as we are respectful and honest and don’t misrepresent who we are, our anonymity is acceptable. Remember TRB from the New Republic magazine.

  33. Teacher Lady

    Teachers take lower-paying teaching jobs (compared with what we might make in the private sector, given, in Westport, our higher education levels and often varied job experiences)) with the understanding that pension and healthcare are, at least, secure. We value jobs that mean something to us and we hope others and sacrifice higher wages for some security. We generally don’t benefit from market rises, nor do we expect to suffer with market drops. We love what we do, but almost none of us can afford to live in Westport: our salaries do not begin to allow for that.

  34. There’s an unexamined premise here: more money = better town services. There’s been a lot of discussion about this in education, with evidence in both directions. There certainly is no correlation between more spending and higher test scores (see http://www.datamasher.org/mash-ups/spent-student-and-sat-scores), but there may be better outcomes for other measures of student learning.

    A better question might be: will $2.50/week/person actually deliver better (or equal) safety, security, schools and quality of life? There are many data sets that indicate more money = worse outcomes (including patient outcomes from specific medical conditions/areas of the country) and more money = same outcomes (including general happiness in the US vs. GDP).

  35. Jim Goodrich

    Becky,

    Your question is an interesting one. If a sum of money is spent for the specific purpose of raising SAT scores you may be able to draw some value conclusions when the results are examined. Even then, there are variables that will have an impact on outcomes . Those variables may include questions on subsequent tests that are more or less difficult than those on the first test taken. The variables may also include differences in individual aptitudes among test takers.

    In the schools there may even be a group within a class of exceptionally bright – or not so bright students and their results can impact the average scores from year-to-year. Also there is a temptation on the part of groups (let’s say states), that have a mandate to achieve higher test scores for all students and are having difficulty doing so, to simply create easier tests thus achieving higher scores. It’s not easy getting simple answers.

    In Westport’s budget things are a bit more straight forward. Add personnel to the police and fire departments and the expectations are that “service” will be improved meaning that emergency calls will be made more quickly. Not adding personnel may be measured by poorer response time. Spend less time cleaning up public areas and one should expect to see more trash and the like.

    Cutting spending in the schools can (and will) result in larger class sizes. Larger class size means less time for individual student/teacher attention and even different teaching styles: lectures versus collaborative teaching, for example, where students are far more involved in the process.

    Measurement of student achievement with smaller class size can be seen in improved writing skills and better writing skills are an outgrowth of better thinking skills. When writing, thinking, as well as similar skills in math and science are working as they have been, the SAT’s will take care of themselves.

    There is plenty more that can be discussed and I’m sure there are people in our schools who will be happy to have a discussion with you

  36. Teacher lady,
    With all due respect, I am curious as to where this whole issue of living in the town where you work is such a big deal.
    I venture to say that most of the people I see getting on the train to Manhattan each and every morning are commuters!
    Do I dare say,
    they don’t live in the same town they work in!!!!

  37. The Dude Abides

    Hey, Anonymous, we agree on something!! Where you live, as mentioned above as a criteria for how poorly Westport teachers are paid, is hardly relevant. From my standpoint, they work 180 days a year, THEIR amble pensions are not in jeopardy and in most districts across the country, they “teach to the test” for their evaluations. And they all tell you they “love what they do.” So what’s the gripe? The real problem is that the public education system in America sucks. Drop out rates at 65% and high school graduates reading at an 8th grade level. But that, of course, is not HERE! We are very special.

  38. Dude,

    We agree on many things – I, too feel the same way about the 180 days “work schedule”. My husband said with regularity when our children were going through the Westport School system, they’re off AGAIN???
    And, I know that you meant ample pensions – not amble. That would be interesting – to have the pensions amble along. Then perhaps we would have more money to put towards education!

  39. The Dude Abides

    Thanks Anonymous for the concurrence and edit. It seems everywhere I have lived (IL,FLA,VA, TX (!!), VT(!!!)), the righteous call to arms is that “we have one of the best school systems in America.” As a result (and in tune with this blog discussion), money is never cut from the school budget for fear of . . . I am not sure what? Fear. Period. Consequently, other areas of public financing suffer. From the lengthly discourse here, it would appear that may be the case in the future of Westport. And as a product of Westport schools (2nd-12th), I can tell you that they are good but not that special. I am not sure “special” is a word you can apply to any public education in this country which is a crying shame.