Another local-focused post today, folks. Voting is next Tuesday (June 14th), and I’m still pushing hard for the school budget to be approved. Why? Because there’s a slew of people out and about trying to get it shot down, and I feel they’re using unfair and manipulative approaches to getting that done.
So today’s post is all about why you should vote YES on the budget.
- Your taxes will likely go DOWN with this year’s budget. That’s right. Despite what some people may be trying to say, this year’s budget will cause a decrease in taxes for most residents. It’s true that there are some towns that will see an increase, but the biggest towns (Farmington and Wilton) will both see decreases. (A slight one for Farmington, a bigger one for Wilton). You can see the details here, in a pdf of the facts provided in the budget proposal. Just check out the numbers in the far right column to see the changes. Numbers in parentheses are decreases from last year’s tax burden.
- Our district is already underfunded compared to the average district in Maine. Some might try to say we’re paying too much, but the facts say differently. Check here for the details, provided by the Maine government. Again, look at the far right column for the “per pupil” cost. Trying to compare budgets any other way makes no sense. If you have 100 students and have a budget of $10 million, then you’re paying through the nose per student: $100,000 per student! If you have 1,000 students and have a budget of $20 million, then you’re just paying $20,000 per student. A drastic reduction, even though the bottom line budget is twice as big. If you look at this sheet, which arranges the budgets from greatest to smallest according to per student expenditures, out of the 242 schools listed, guess where RSU 9 falls? From what the No side is portraying, you’d figure it would be in the top 25 at least, right? We’re number 187. We’re in the bottom 25% for the state. Our school district, RSU 9, pays $9,675 per student. Sure, Philips/Strong’s budget is almost a quarter the size of ours, but they spend $10,512 per student (141st in the state). Jay spends $10,206 per student (160th in the state).
- For the amount we do pay, our district over-performs. When you think of all the excellent programs our district offers, it’s amazing we do as much as we do with as little as we get. Look at this special piece done by WCSH6 on our Fiddlers group. Check out the Facebook page of the high school. We have graduates going to the best schools in the country. I’ve heard some complain about the price tag of the high school. That we overpaid and are sending our students to a Taj Mahal. To that, I’d like to point out that the school was funded at the state level, and we got a great deal as far as how much we have to pay locally. To those who then point out that state dollars still come out of our pockets here, I nod and then suggest they take that issue up with the state. For now, the state renovates high schools according to a schedule and price formula they determine. Our district was up. We could have said “No thanks!” and then the state would have gone on to renovate a high school somewhere else. On our dime! We are paying state taxes, it only makes sense to have them spent on our students when we can. If you want to spend less in state taxes, contact your state legislators, but this is water under the bridge now. We have a brand new high school. It’s gorgeous. And I for one am very grateful our students can benefit from it.
- The budget has been significantly reduced. I know it’s not as visible, but that’s because you need to understand the numbers in the budget. The district was required to increase the budget for special education and teacher salaries. Why? Special education funding was required to increase by law. Teacher salaries were already negotiated more than a year ago. Between those two increases, the budget had to go up by $1.5 million. (Special education accounted for $900,000 of that.) The school board went to work, and ended up increasing the budget by only $929,000. Yes, that’s a significant increase. But if you compare how much it had to increase no matter what, you’ll see this is $571,000 less than where it started. Look at the actual budget lines. Elementary Instruction was reduced by almost $110,000. Secondary Instruction was reduced by over $50,000. Student and Staff support had $44,000 cut. Libraries had over $15,000 cut. These are real cuts, with real consequences. If you have an issue with how special education is funded take that up with the state. Don’t punish our students over some sort of misguided moral stand.
- Good schools make good communities. If you want new people to want to move to the area, bringing with them new students, new jobs, new ideas, and more, then you need to be able to entice them to come. How a community treats its children is one of the first things parents check before deciding to take up residence. We live in a country of commuters. Just because someone has a job in the area doesn’t mean they’re going to live there. They’ll happily drive an hour or more if it means their family is better taken care of. I love this community, and I’ve been very happy here for the past nine(!) years.
- Good schools fight poverty. We live in an area of the country that is far from rich. Mills have been closing, and times are tough. That’s why there’s such a debate over how to spend our tax dollars. But the answer to this isn’t to defund the schools. It’s at times like these that we need to make sure the schools get even stronger. Our children need a good, modern education to be able to get jobs in a changing work environment. They need to know how to use computers and technology if they’re going to compete. Yes, this means we have to pay for that technology to be in the classrooms. We’ve moved beyond the age of chalkboards and overhead projectors.
- We have a hard working School Board. These people aren’t appointed by the district. They’re not some secret cabal devoted to increasing spending however they can. They aren’t teachers. They’re elected officials. We voted them into office. They’ve worked hours and hours on this budget, trying their best to balance between the needs of the community and the needs of the students. They shouldn’t be vilified. They should be thanked. I’ve spoken to many of them, and I’m very grateful for the sacrifices they’ve made to serve my children. I am beyond disappointed that some members of our community have chosen to paint them as deceitful or untrustworthy. The best odds of making good decisions is to make sure the people making those decisions are well informed. That they have all the facts and understand what they mean. Our school board is just that. To have people trail along after them, misinterpreting those facts in an effort to constantly contradict the school board is a waste of everyone’s time. If you think the school board is doing a bad job, vote them out. Don’t take it out on the schools.
I could go on, but I don’t have time. If you have more great reasons to vote YES June 14th, chime in here or on Facebook. Please do your best to get every registered voter you know out to the polls. It’s imperative that all voices are heard. Here are the times and places where you can vote:
- Chesterville votes at the Town Office, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.
- Farmington votes at the Community Center, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.
- Industry votes at the Town Office, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.
- New Sharon votes at the Town Office, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.
- New Vineyard votes at Smith Hall, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.
- Starks votes at the Community Center, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.
- Temple votes at the Town Office, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.
- Vienna votes at the Fire Station, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.
- Weld votes at the Town Office, from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.
- Wilton votes at the Towns Office, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.