Franklin Countys First News

Letter to the Editor: Vote NO on severe cuts

I had a root canal this Wednesday, and can honestly say that it was a far more pleasant experience than sitting through the Public Budget Meeting the night before. The cuts that we voted in that evening will decimate the educational climate here in Mt. Blue RSD.

The school budget is extremely complicated, I have served on the School Board for nine years and I learn more every year. It’s not always easy to understand – and from comments made over and over on The Bulldog and in our Board Meetings – there is some lack of understanding.

People are outraged that the school budget is $33 million. On the Budget Review Sheet that was distributed throughout the District to households, and available, (and I saw one in almost every hand) at the Public Budget Meeting, it clearly shows that $5,177,426 is reimbursed this year for our building projects – so now were working with a $27 million budget. Of that 27 million, less than half, $12,694,498, is paid for by local taxes. This was also unequivocally clear on the Budget Review Sheet that everyone had in their hands that evening. So, locally were dealing with paying $12.6 million towards our school district, a figure that is DOWN from last year’s local assessment by $267,444 – this also was perfectly clear on the Budget Review Sheet. It’s incredibly sad when taxpayers are lied to and coerced to come out to a meeting where they didn’t bother to even look over the facts – school taxes ARE going down! I was shocked to see bright yellow signs being held up directing people how to vote on each motion – seriously – can no one think, or vote for themselves anymore?

When the budget was cut back to last year's funding at the meeting on Tuesday night, what was very carefully explained, a number of times to those in the audience, was either not understood, or not cared about. It was explained that because the $545,000 increase to the Special Services Budget is required by law, that that cost center could not be cut, that if the cut were made, that that money would have to come from the regular education budget. That money was still voted out of the budget. So now we are left in a situation where the $980,000 that was cut that evening, ALL needs to come from regular education, because we can't take the money away from special-education. We will be sued by the government and the parents if we do not take care of special needs children. Not only would it be more expensive, but it is the right thing to do – I don’t want to be a part of a society that refuses to care for its most vulnerable citizens.

There are a few things that people just don't seem to be hearing. One thing is that their taxes are going down, yes going DOWN! I'm emphasizing that because people keep talking about how they can't continue to pay such high taxes because of the costs of the schools, frankly, I don't know what they're talking about! If they look at their tax bill, their taxes are not going up from the school, not last year not this year. As a matter of fact, the school tax assessment to the town of New Sharon went down by over $26,000 last year, and in the budget, that was voted down at the public meeting the other night, New Sharon was supposed to have an additional $26,000 reduction in their school taxes this year. That's more than a $52,000 school tax decrease for the taxpayers in New Sharon. It's higher in the bigger towns, last year Farmington saw a $98,000 tax reduction from their school tax, this year they were going to see an additional $101,000 reduction, $200,000 in school tax reduction in two years to the town of Farmington. In Wilton, last year their school tax reduction was $124,000, this year it was going to be an additional $122,000 reduction! That means that Wilton is seeing almost a $250,000 school tax reduction over the last two years, and STILL they continue to vote down the school budget, falsely claiming that their taxes are going up due to the schools! You can see where I would be frustrated when people are telling me that their taxes are going up because of the school budget - it's incredibly frustrating because it's not the truth!

I have three senior boys, and an 8th grader, I have been sickened this week knowing that potentially they're not going to finish their football, soccer, and field hockey seasons, and even if they do get to finish the fall season, their winter sports, their spring sports, will potentially be cut. Our entire school co-curriculum budget grades 7 through 12 - every single Sport, Fiddlers, Jazz Band, Chamber Singers, Drama, among other various clubs, - only equals $450,000. That's not even half of what we need to balance the $980,000 that was cut out of the budget on Tuesday night. As a school board member, I cannot in good conscience cut teachers before I cut sports, and those who know me well, know how much I love sports! Even with cutting every single sport and club at Mt. Blue, we still must cut nine teachers to meet this cut! Future kindergarten classes will most likely not have 18 kids, which is what we have capped it at it up until now, no, they will probably have 25 kids. Can you imagine having 25 five-year-olds that you are supposed to teach a whole curriculum of letters and numbers and beginning to read and write and understand math, among all the other millions of things kindergarten teachers teach kids? We've capped the class sizes for a reason.

These cuts are just incredibly severe, people say to trim the fat, the fat was trimmed years ago, we are a lean operation, and we are into the flesh, with this next round of cuts we literally will be amputating arms and legs of education here at Mt Blue. I'm incredibly sad, and so frustrated and disheartened for my kids and their education and the kids in the rest of the District and students who are coming in, and families who are moving here and want to raise their kids here. My niece and nephew just moved here from Salt Lake, he is a physical therapist working at a thriving practice here in Farmington, they have a young child - I don't know why they will ever want to stay here after witnessing this disgusting mess, and the aftermath that could follow. I wish people could have some vision and see that great schools do make great communities, they do bring people here to help stimulate the economy, we can't stay here as a bunch of old people living without physicians, without physical therapists, without all the services that people are going to need as they age, we need to keep life here, EDUCATION BRINGS LIFE! I urge EVERY voter within these 10 amazing towns, to VOTE NO on Tuesday, Sept. 12 – our children, our economy, our community needs you to vote NO!

Betsey Hyde
School Board Director
Temple

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15 Responses »

  1. The budget setting meeting on September 5, last week, resulted in no reductions. The amount voted was exactly the same as last year's 2016-2017 budget. No cuts.

  2. Correction Bill the only difference is the debt service of $92,189

  3. Isn't it amazing that the extreme liberals go crazy and cry fowl when they don't get their way. The school board
    has given us million dollar increases every year for 7 straight years. We have complained, but when we lose
    we deal with it. Now they have lost for the first time in 30 years and they talk like the world is ending. We are
    only asking you to operate on the same budget you used last year. We have the same number of students, give
    or take a couple, and fuel and electricity costs are about the same. But suddenly, the sky is falling and every
    sport and band and arts and crafts and whatever is gonna be cut. Holy Cow, what have we done???

    Come on Betsey, stop the drama. There are plenty of places to cut. I said it before, start with classes like
    culinary anthropology and the other odd classes listed by Lindy a few weeks ago. Cut into the contingency
    accts that are in every part of the budget. Many places to cut.

  4. Bill, that statement is not true.

    The school district CAN NOT provide the same services as it did last year on the same amount of money. How much has fuel costs gone up? Heating costs, electric? The cost of virtually all of the goods and services that are required to keep an institution of this size going have gone up. That's not even counting personnel costs for one of Franklin County's largest employers. All that has to be deducted before you can even start talking about keeping things the same as last year.

    The only way this budget would work is to make drastic cuts on sports, music and art. Plus a large number of teacher layoffs and large class sizes.

  5. Thank you Betsey, for working diligently for the students of RSU 9 and for the taxpayers of RSU 9. I attend many of the board meetings and truly appreciate the efforts put in to balance changing needs of students with the need to have a budget that is affordable.

    Our taxes on our house in Wilton did go down last year, and seeing the proposed budget last week with another tax reduction, before the budget was decimated with harsh cuts, proves the Board is working to balance student needs with our property owners ability to pay.

    Before the large reductions voted in last week, Wilton's assessment was budgeted to go down by about 4%.

    As a parent, and as a teacher in RSU 9, I know the needs of our students change from year to year. I also know we have been unable to keep up with some major maintenance jobs in the district. Always running with a tight budget forced RSU 9 to propose a bond issue to cover the costs of many repairs/improvements.

    I believe the cuts in the proposed budget were too large to meet the needs of our students. Having a budget which spends significantly less for controllable costs than most school systems in Maine, and less than surrounding districts does not leave room for cutting funds, and still meet the needs of students.

    Remember many years ago, when the award winning marching band program was defunded? The marchingg band disappeared. How about World Language instruction in elementary and the middle school? reduced, and never recovered. How about time for art in the elementary schools? reduced, and has not been recovered?

    What cuts will have to be made to programs now?

    The timing for cuts is not appropriate. State funding increased, property tax needs were reduced. Directors and administrators put in hundreds, or was it thousands of hours preparing, presenting, and negotiating for a budget to balance the needs of students and taxpayers. The efforts of the Board and Administrator team worked a budget to balance the needs of both, and provide a tax reduction of about 2% across the ten towns of our district.

    And then a committed group was able to gather enough votes to toss a tight budget out the window, resulting in a large reduction in the requested budget.

    I believe its too much of a cut, too late in the school year, with too little planning to minimize the impact on students.

    Each of the last several years, funding to directly support students within the Special Education services umbrella has increased and directly supported students in need. Cutting the proposed Special education budget about 10 % is wrong.

    What will we cut next, that supports kids, and will never return?

  6. Bill - the cuts were from the proposed budget. There are increased special education costs and other things that forced the final budget to be higher than last year. So if this budget is cut those new costs will still exist, and we'll be forced to have draconian cuts on things like music, sports, extra curricular activities and positions will be lost. The idea that it'll be the same as last year is wrong. You may not understand the budget, and I'd be willing to explain to you why flat funding is really calling for a massive cut given the costs. Are you willing to listen?

  7. Scott can you explain to me why the budget proposed on January 31 was $142,000 less for special need education than the what is listed on the schools website. I'm not picking on special meeds I'm simply wondering why the drastic increase in number. Seems to me if the first amount listed wasn't enough than there would have been a shortfall in that department. So why the increase ?

  8. To see the School Board Director describe an engaged populace taking part in the democratic process as much worse than a root canal is severely disappointing and does nothing but solidify my YES vote. Is this attitude being passed on to our children?

    Please vote YES to ratify the budget passed at the meeting or the increases will NEVER end.

  9. Jesse - I'm not sure why there is that difference, I'll try to find out. We on the school board do not like having to fight multiple budget battles so we really tried to make the budget as minimal as possible - that's why there is no fat to cut. We are asking $546,000 less over the last two years, I think we should get some credit for that! We're asking for less, not more!

  10. The Mr. Blue School District has had two building projects completed in the last 10 years. That means that approximately $6 million annually is being funneled through our District Budget every year, and we are reimbursed for over 90% of that by the State. So people can rant about the budget being up 10 million-dollars over 10 years - but, please realize that this year, as in all of the past years since those new school buildings have been completed, the State has given us back the lion's share of that money, (this year for instance 5.5 million) So it would be much more accurate to say that the budget has gone up by $4.5 million over the last 10 years.

    Our per pupil expenditure is in the bottom 25% of the State, lower than ANY of our surrounding districts, and yet our School District was ranked in the top 25 school districts in the state of Maine recently. I would say that's getting quite a bang for your buck!

    When those opposed to the budget try to scare people by saying that their property taxes are going up due to school spending, they're lying. In fact, property taxes, due to schools, have been down $546,097 Districr-wide over the past two years. So, to people like Nancy Porter, Bob Millay, Bill Reid, and Mike Deschenes - I applaud you! Thank you, for helping to keep school spending under control, thank you, for helping our taxpayers not see a school tax increase last year and this year, thank you for raising awareness amongst members of the Board, and members of our community! It is time to stop the vendetta against our Superintendent and our School Board! Let's get back to the business of being the awesome community that we are, thoughtful, respectful, involved, FRIENDS!

    People need to decide who they'll put their trust in, and I respect that. As someone who has been through this budget process a dozen times from the perspective of a School Board Director, I can say that there is NO WAY. that this cut of nearly 1 million-dollars to the proposed budget for 2017-18, will not hurt programming for students - both in the classrooms, on the athletic fields, and in our music department. I'm not sure that I've ever been called out as a lLiberal before, much less Extreme Liberal - but, if that's the side of the coin these decisions put me on, I'm happy to be here! Vote NO tomorrow - our entire community needs you to VOTE NO!

  11. Betsey raises a good point - those of you opposing the budget have already won. The school board takes you seriously and have worked hard to have no tax cuts (again, $546,000 less in the last two years). I know that without your efforts it would have been easy for me to, say, support having a marching band or other additions that would be nice. Even if the no vote wins, and even if the budget ends up being more than you want, your activism has already given you solid results. You have made a real difference, even if it doesn't feel that way to you in the heat of this campaign.

  12. MS Hyde,

    Please don't try to explain to me about how my taxes are going down.

    I'm a senior citizen and I have lived in New Sharon for just over 20 years. When I first moved here my property taxes increased my monthly mortgage payment by 15%, today my property taxes increase my monthly mortgage payment by 45%.

    I just don't see the going down part......

  13. backcast,

    That's because your taxes towards OTHER things have gone up! The school is asking for LESS of your tax money. Your taxes don't go purely towards the school district. There's road maintenance and a host of other public services. Are you going to vote against plowing the roads in winter or for less firefighters? Why are people stuck on blaming the school system for an increase in overall taxes (which they aren't responsible for)?

  14. Yes Guppy it must be the road maintenance. The school budget has only gone up by $10,000,000 in the last eight years.

    My towns road maintenance, yes that must be the problem...

  15. I'd prefer that you do your own research, but here are the facts. The school budget has gone up, but local taxes are not the only source of revenue for schools. The portion required from local taxes has gone down. I thought people would have enough knowledge of our town to know that there are other costs besides road maintenance (Police, Firefighters, etc...). I'm not going to list them all. That would be a waste of my time.

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