EDITORIAL, Lowell Sun
If Dracut’s one town, endorse joint override
Dracut’s long history of struggling for sufficient funds to run the municipal and school side of government could be described as this town’s version of death — and dare we say — taxes.
It’s the only thing residents can count on. That, and the continuing crusade by some to pit one interest against the other. And the next chapter of that story currently involves how to frame a Proposition 2 1/2 override question for the May 2 town election.
The Board of Selectmen and School Committee both seek roughly $550,000 apiece to address serious shortcomings.
Selectmen would use these funds to hire and train six police officers and three firefighters. Structural deficiencies aside, the lack of public-safety staffing seems obvious. Currently, only three police officers patrol town at any given time, while some Fire Department engines operate with only two firefighters.
With that same sum, the school board would upgrade the district’s Internet system to include fiber-optic cables and wireless capacity. According to School Superintendent Steven Stone, that amount triggers roughly $230,000 in federal government rebates in the first year alone, with which he’d hire needed staff.
It appears that a majority of both boards want these overrides combined into one $1.1 million request, which would cost the average residential taxpayer approximately $100 a year.
However, one selectman, former town Fire Chief Joe DiRocco, remains adamantly opposed to a joint override. DiRocco apparently still wants to make the school board pay for giving the superintendent a $12,000 raise and allocating another $37,000 for salary increases split among six school prinicpals and three administrators.
Yes, we agree the school board’s timing — no matter the reasoning behind it — couldn’t have been worse.
But why, Selectman DiRocco, hold the 3,800 students in the Dracut school system hostage while you settle your political score? Voters can validate or reject the School Committee members’ decision at the polls. That’s fair game — not the entire school system.
Presently, as the town counsel prepares language for both a joint and separate override, time is of the essence. In order to appear on the May 2 ballot, selectmen must endorse one or the other at their March 8 meeting.
No one likes paying more taxes — especially in Dracut — but public safety and education are the bedrocks of every desirable community.
Selectman Tami Dristiliaris, in dismissing separate overrides, insisted on a joint question. “This is not a divided town,” Dristiliaris said. Well, it’s time for Dracut to prove it. Selectmen should back a combined $1.1 million override, and let the voters decide them on their merits.