What Will Be Cut from the School Budget?

A popular sentiment I’ve seen expressed again and again from those who would have the school budget slashed is “It’s not our job to figure out where to cut the budget. Our job is to say what we’re willing to pay. It’s the school board’s job to find the places to cut the budget.” And yet those same people will argue strongly that they support our schools and want our kids to succeed. Their logic is that there is fat to be trimmed from the budget still, and they’re calling the school board’s bluff.

Some of them try to portray the school board as incompetent, or little more than the superintendent’s puppets, parroting back the false figures fed to them by Dr. Ward.

Fine. For the moment, let’s assume that argument is correct. Let’s assume the school board is a bunch of ninnies. But this same bunch of ninnies will be the ones who determines what gets cut from the budget. And this same bunch of ninnies have been very specific about what exactly the effects of this cut will be.

Sports. Theater. Orchestra. Band. Chorus. After school activities. Teaching positions. Foreign Language.

They are filling Facebook with heartfelt, frank posts about what will happen if this reduced budget gets passed. They are being very open about what will be on the table. Even if you think they are ninnies, you should be paying very close attention to what they are saying, because the future of the school will lie in their hands if the citizens approve this budget.

Let’s be clear here: $900,000 is a LOT of money. It may seem like a little in comparison with the $30 million plus the school district budget encompasses, but in a budget as finely perched as ours, it will make a huge difference. If every single sports program from grade 7-12 were cut, it would save $450,000. Half of what is needed. And just like that, all basketball games, football games, soccer games, field hockey games, lacrosse games. Gone.

Our strings program is one of the gems of the district. The annual grade 4-12 orchestra concert is a high point of the year. Finding a place to sit in the high school gym is sometimes impossible. Cutting all of that will not cover the budget gap, but it will leave a huge hole in the community. Even cutting early grades of orchestra will hurt. The feeder system will be broken. Participation will dwindle.

Budget hawks might say all that stuff is fluff. Irrelevant. “Schools are for teaching. If they want sports and music, let the parents pay for it.” But for the love of all that’s good in this world, think back for a moment on your own time in school. Maybe you never went to football games. Maybe you were never in orchestra. Maybe you didn’t do any drama. But for me, I did all of those. Those activities weren’t parsley to me. They weren’t a garnish. They were a fundamental part of my life. They continue to affect me today.

They are worth our community’s investment!

And they might get cut. Perhaps not all of them. I don’t know. But it’s on the table. Perhaps more costs will be shifted to parents. But there are students out there who desperately need those activities in their lives. And they are students whose parents cannot afford them. By voting to approve this budget, you tell them they are unimportant. That is what they will hear, regardless of what you proudly trumpet at school budget meetings or on the Daily Bulldog comment section.

So to those who would see the budget slashed: you can’t have it both ways. If you truly wanted to help the children of the district, and you knew of magical areas of the budget that can stand to lose $900,000, it would be criminal of you to withhold that information. I’ve been in meetings where you’ve outlined some of the places you think the school district can save. I’ve listened to your arguments, and I’ve listened to the Board’s response. I’ve then done research on my own to see if there’s any merit to your proposals.

So far, I have found none.

The fact is, we cannot have the same offerings this year by flat funding the budget. Special education costs have gone up by over $500,000. We are required by law to pay those. Fuel costs have changed. Health insurance premiums have gone up. Teacher salaries have changed.

You point to increased salaries for administrators. You hold up the Middle School principal as your shining example of it. Paid too much! Not enough experience! Fine. Let’s assume we could cut his salary to what the former principal was making. (Note: we can’t.) But even if we could, we’ve now successfully saved . . . $20,000?

Where is the next $880,000 to come from?

I’ve asked that question before, and all I heard back was crickets. I have to believe that’s because you’ve got no ideas. Nothing more than a trumped up belief that there’s a pot of gold somewhere in that budget that can be cracked open and magically fix everything. And if that’s the case, I have a bridge I’d love to sell you. All proceeds will go directly to the school budget.

I will be voting No on Tuesday, and I encourage everyone to do the same. I was feeling very disheartened yesterday. I felt like the odds of fighting this budget cut were insurmountable. I wanted to throw in the towel and prepare myself for the worst. I still feel the odds are grim. We’ve got less than a week to get the message out, but I’ve seen an absolute flood of support come from the community. My hope is it’s enough.

On Tuesday night, the opposition had their best showing ever. They thumped their chests and boo’ed parents and teachers who spoke. It was ugly, and I for one would be ashamed to stand on the same side as some of those who spoke against the school. They believe they are the voice of the silent majority. The over-burdened tax payer who will not pay anymore.

There’s a chance there’s an even larger majority in the community. School supporters who are ready to stand for our students. They have one chance to show up and be heard. Tuesday September 12th. If they don’t show up then, coming to next year’s school budget meetings may well be too late.

It’s not enough to share posts on Facebook. It’s not enough to click “Like” or “Love.” It’s not enough to write diatribes to the Bulldog. We need to get out there and have conversations with our neighbors and friends. Be respectful. Listen. Provide facts. Ask for input. If there truly are areas of the budget where we can trim and save money without impacting our students, let’s hear them. But otherwise, let’s put an end to this “we love students but don’t need to pay to support them” mentality.

The school board is not full of ninnies. I know and respect many of them. They are my friends and colleagues. The parents of my children’s friends. Good people who do not deserve to be continually maligned. They work very hard to try to meet the needs of the school and the community. I’ve had long conversations with them to find out more. They all stand ready to talk. They want voters to be informed. Take them up on the offer, please. Don’t let your minds be made up by a group of angry individuals who have shown a surprising resistance to facts, common sense, and common decency.

Vote No this coming Tuesday.

Voting times and places are as follows:

  • Chesterville Town Office, 778-2433, from 12 pm to 8 pm
  • Farmington Community Center, 778-6539, from 12 pm to 7 pm
  • Industry Town Hall, 778-5050, from 2 pm to 8 pm​
  • New Sharon Town Office, 778-4046, from 12 pm to 6 pm
  • New Vineyard Smith Hall, 652-2222, from 1 pm to 7 pm
  • Starks Community Center, 696-8069, from 10 am to 8 pm
  • Temple Town Hall, 778-6680, from 1 pm to 7 pm *updated*
  • Vienna Fire Station, 293-2915, from 1 pm to 7 pm
  • Weld Town Office, 585-2348, from 4 pm to 8 pm
  • Wilton Town Office, 645-4961, from 8 am to 7 pm​ *updated*

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