True to form, Dracut voters rejected both the public-safety and school Proposition 2 1/2 overrides in Monday’s election, thus retaining its image as a town tight with a buck.
The two questions would have added $1.1 million spread around the community’s taxpayers, increasing the average annual residential tax bill by $106.
Actually, the public-safety override almost passed muster, failing by just 140 votes. It would have funded the hiring of six police officers and three firefighters. The school override for technology upgrades attracted far less support.
In hindsight, the selectmen’s decision to split the funding requests into two questions seems vindicated by the results. Together, there’s no doubt they were doomed to fail miserably.
If residents needed further reason to refuse this added tax burden, developments that occurred leading up to the election certainly reinforced their resolve.
On the school side, it was the 8 percent raise given Superintendent Steven Stone and lesser amounts to his top administrators. On the public-safety side, it was the scathing audit of the Police Department, which identified the majority of its officers as having no faith in the chief or deputy chief.
And voters apparently had no problem splitting their allegiance when it came to choosing winners and losers. The two candidates who campaigned against the overrides, incumbent Selectman Cathy Richardson and School Committee challenger Tim Woods, were both soundly defeated.
Obviously, Richardson also was saddled with those animal-cruelty allegations and the resulting August trial date, which more than likely sealed her fate.So now, top town officials must regroup and fashion municipal and school budgets without those override funds.
That will entail sacrifices that the majority of residents are apparently willing to make. Remember, that damning police audit also indicated that to meet the national average of police to residents, Dracut would need to hire an additional 19 officers — not just the six it sought.
So short of some basic reorganization of both Police and Fire departments, no more than three cruisers will be patrolling the town at any one time, and fire engines will often be deployed with just two firefighters.
And the school system, already near the bottom in the state for what it spends on its students, will spur more parents to send their children to private, parochial or charter schools.
That’s one way to consolidate school spending.
But it’s no way to run a municipal government.