The cooperative and informative meeting between the Pittsfield School Committee and the Finance Committee of the Pittsfield City Council last week bodes well after the tense sparring of last March. This does not mean that the boards should not ask tough questions of one another but it does indicate that better communication can help avoid needless disputes.
It was apparent this time ( Eagle, January 25) that Assistant Superintendent for Finance Kristen C. Behnke was able to answer many of the questions councilors had before the meeting, avoiding last year's confusion. Some committee and council members bristled at budget issues at the last get- together but the source of those disputes now appears to be largely procedural, reflecting the different mandates of the two bodies, rather than differences over how and what should be budgeted.
The caliber of a community's schools are important not just because of the responsibility a community has to its children but because of what the schools say about a community. Struggling, inadequately funded schools are basically a sign to businesses and workers that they should go somewhere else or not come into the community in the first place. This is something that Pittsfield officials recognize.
The school budget always takes a pounding when the tax rate is set but Pittsfield is and has not been overtaxed and doesn't get asked to override Proposition 21/2 as is the case elsewhere in the Berkshires. Finding the right balance between the needs of schools and the needs of residents and businesses during long-term difficult economic times is tricky but not impossible. Open dialogue between the School Committee and City Council and the sharing of all relevant information with taxpayers is the best recipe for finding that balance.