October 24, 2006

Dartmouth Hurting, But What Is a Cut?

Keri mentions on her blog that Dartmouth is feeling the pinch in its budget crisis (following from state-level cuts and bad decisions by the voters which we discussed here earlier)

Perhaps Dartmouth will make students pay for buses and extracurricular activities. The “adult” voters of Dartmouth (many of whom had access to taxpayer-funded school programs when they were growing up) are going to force the school into a situation where it has to eliminate programs or make parents pay for them on top of the taxes they pay.

It’s pretty sad. No doubt the same taxpayers who don’t want to pay for other people’s children to go to school will rail against teen delinquency when teens with nothing to do find something to do.

In any case, a commenter on Keri’s post took her to task in referring to local aid as having been “slashed” by Romney. This anonymous voice listed the last few allocations of aid to Fall River. The dollar values had slightly increased (barely, one might say) over the last few years — that can’t be slashing, right?

But the reality of dollars is that $1.00 today is not the same as $1.00 in the year 2001. To quote the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center:

The appropriations proposed in this budget, however, leave in place a significant portion of the cuts enacted during the state’s fiscal crisis. Compared to FY 2001, after adjusting for inflation, this budget provides 10 percent less in unrestricted local aid, 19 percent less funding for higher education, 22 percent less funding for public health, and 17 less for environmental affairs.

When you consider the reality — the actual spending power of the money allocated — local aid is not only under-funded but it is lower than what it was in previous years. That is a cut, or slash, or whatever you want to call it.

If you are used to buying a box of Mac and Cheese for $1, and the amount of macaroni in the box drops from 10 ounces to 9 ounces, would you consider that a cut? One could argue that you’re still getting a box of Mac and Cheese for your $1 bill.

And, in fact, that is exactly the argument being made when someone says that a level-funded program has not been cut, yet the value of a dollar has changed.

Posted by James at October 24, 2006 2:52 PM
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I couldn't agree with you more! And although I guess you could consider it inflation let's point out that level, or slightly increased budgets have to deal with increasing salaries, health insurance costs, pensions - what's left to spend on education is far less than 'level funded'

Posted by: Lefty at October 24, 2006 3:57 PM

Now I want Mac and Cheese.

Posted by: DG at October 25, 2006 9:42 AM

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