John Flaherty’s May 22 Town Crier letter raises an interesting question: should the School Committee “be in the override business?”

He cites the third element of the Committee’s Mission Statement, “recommend a budget that delivers a high-quality educational program to the children entrusted to our care.” As the fourth of our Budget Principles elaborates, that budget should “respect the fiscal priorities of the Town by considering cost reduction, new revenue, and program redefinition, with attention given to such considerations as staff patterns, operational efficiencies, and cooperative ventures.”

Presumably, Mr. Flaherty isn’t suggesting that the schools stop requesting or advocating for overrides. Rather, it appears that he recommends that the schools propose budgets without considering whether those budgets would require overrides, nor the amount of those overrides.

In developing its budget for the 2008-2009 school year, the School Committee (for the first time in my memory) voluntarily came in below the Finance Committee’s budget guideline, thereby helping to reduce the override from an initially projected $2.6M to a voter-approved $1.9M. It did so out of concern for the viability of the higher amount, and because the lower amount would preserve the educational program.

In essence, Mr. Flaherty asks the School Committee to ignore override viability even when override failure would significantly degrade the educational program. If my opinion isn’t clear, let me state it explicitly: it would be wholly irresponsible of the School Committee to ignore the “override business.”

I am interested to know what others think.