Opinion

SAD 4 budget nauseating

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Dear Editor;
When I was elected to the school board in Guilford I made an appointment with my doctor and he doubled my meds. If you are prone to nausea, you might want to take some precautions yourself before you read the budget presented to SAD 4 by the board.

When the last meeting of the budget committee convened, faces were grim, and one of the members suggested that barf bags were in order. The committee will assure you through its spokespuppets that titanic efforts were made to cut this year’s budget in the face of a $750,000 cut in state aid to SAD 4. The only thing titanic about their efforts was that they saw the iceberg dead ahead and continued to steam on. The ONLY cut that was even discussed at the meeting was to reduce the 100% increase in the L4 L budget, which was no longer necessary since Dexter was not going to be sending students there. Need I tell you that even that minor economy failed?

My favorite wrinkle is the new budget report format. In all past budgets the amount of increase to the towns has been listed in percentage terms. For example, this time the town of Parkman will get a 13% increase in their tax bill. When asked directly “why” at the public meeting, the superintendent explained that knowing the percentages presented a “stumbling block” to the voters because they might not know how to think about that! So someone followed up by asking the chief financial officer (of the $6.8 million school system) what the percentages were. She said she hadn’t bought a calculator to the meeting! Five people whipped out their smartphones but nothing happened 🙂 you can’t make this stuff up.

I confess that I used a calculator, but I went to school in the days when we could’ve done this with paper and pencil 🙂 Here are the tax increases being asked for by the board, by percentage terms per town:
Abbot 9.8%
Cambridge 11%
Guilford 10.8%
Parkman 13%
Sangerville 10.6%
Wellington 1.2%
I could go on for days, but we all have lives to return to. Long story short the number of students has declined drastically leading to drastic CUTS in state aid, leading to six months of work for the budget committee to present a budget that increases spending and raises taxes astronomically.

Why can’t the school board get this animal under control? Not too hard to figure out. Civic minded people are cajoled or timidly come forward to serve on a thankless task for $25 a meeting and are immediately put up against administration with $500,000 in salary and an entrenched bureaucracy to protect. How do you suppose guys from the mill who play touch football on weekends would do if they had to play in the NFL? It wouldn’t be pretty.

The members are presented with an incomprehensible budget of 1,177 lines, and are enticed into making a series of seemingly innocuous spending decisions that when added up equal the current budget morass. Then the administration “invites” them to “suggest” budget cuts and patiently explains why all of the things that they have voted on before makes it impossible to do so. It is hair-raising to watch members who went in with the highest ideals and who intended to bring fiscal responsibility to the school board be transformed into reliable rubber stamps for the establishment in the course of only a few meetings.

So it is up to we the people to fix this. The district budget meeting will be held on Thursday, June 8 at 7 p.m. in the elementary school cafeteria and the referendum will be on the ballot on June 13. If your meds are in order by all means come to the district budget meeting – the propaganda session begins at 6, but the real meeting doesn’t start until 7.

I haven’t seen anything in the school manual about it but I’m pretty sure that pitchforks and torches are forbidden on school grounds. But by all means, bring your un-brainwashed minds and put this Frankenstein budget to sleep.
Robert Shaffer
Guilford

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