Editorial: We’re in a budget state of mind

Editorial: We’re in a budget state of mind

The Westerly Sun

Once again we seem to have sprinted from Labor Day to Christmas. Friday’s frigid blast coupled with Santa displays in stores, last weekend’s descent into early darkness, and headlines about town budgets has us firmly in another frame of mind almost instantaneously. That warm spell into early November seems a distant memory.

But now it’s down to brass tacks, as they say. Westerly town councilors are gearing up for another shot at finding that elusive — and clearly necessary — seventh vote. Two new candidates have been vetted, somewhat, and one could be named Monday night.

With budget season getting under way, the Westerly State Airport zoning ordinance and usage morass, and the prickly issues surrounding the proposed Harbor Management Plan, a seven-member council will be needed.

As we’ve said in the past, budget season generally provides some heat for the upcoming cold winter nights. And we’ll get a better read on Westerly’s new superintendent of schools, Mark Garceau, as he defends his budget request, a process that has an ugly history here.

In this early stage of the budget process, the School Committee has just approved the staff’s capital expense requests, some $2.56 million for computers and infrastrucure upgrades. That now goes to the Planning Board for review later this month and will result in a recommendation to the council later in the process. Garceau is expected to prioritize the shopping list for the Planning Board.

Our report on the schools’ capital spending proposal indicated that  Interim Finance Director Barbara Perino got a firsthand understanding of the technoligy needs by chatting with teaches and visitng the high school to see how computers are being used. She discovered that the Wi-Fi system needs to be upgraded in order to handle the new laptops that are being requested. 

And it appears that her survey of the school system’s current technology revealed a real need to make several upgrades. This kind of firsthand knowledge of a situation that will be discussed by those outside the classrooms in terms only of dollars and cents is a good and refreshing approach. We agree with School Committee member Christine Misto’s suggestion that computers should now be considered as part of the operating budget just as textbooks have for a century, something that has been discussed in the past. It’s 2017. Laptops are textbooks. We’re well past computers being considered a novelty for second graders.

So here we are, talking about taxpayer dollars and school infrastructure rather than traffic problems created by Misquamicut State Beach as we did for much of the summer — which really seems like just a few weeks ago.

Now it’s time for another state of mind and long, cold nights to consider next year’s tax bills.


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