2013-05-31 / Letters

School board member’s letter ‘a bit off the mark’

To the editor:

This letter to the editor is written in response to Jacquelyn A. Perry’s May 24 letter.

I think Perry may be a bit off the mark in her interpretation of poor voter turnout in the budget referendum. Based on her comments and comments made by other members of the School Board, as well as the superintendent, I was struck by the fact the town’s educational leadership is slightly tone deaf.

I don’t know how you could view the failure to pass your budget as anything but an administration failure to contain costs and a failure of the Board of Education to appropriately gauge public sentiment.

I am a parent of two children who attend Scarborough schools. I would like to make Perry aware of why I consciously chose to abstain from voting on this school budget.

Let me say first that I have voted for every school budget since I have lived in Scarborough and also voted in favor of constructing a new Wentworth school.

As a result, I have seen my property tax increases outpace increases in my income. This is a sacrifice people make for their kids and all the kids of Scarborough. Those votes were easy because I knew what we were getting – a new school, program add-backs, etc.

What are we getting with the latest round of increases?

The state is passing along its fiscal problems to the municipality. We don’t gain anything, but I can see the need to fill that gap as a property taxpayer, as unfortunate as it is.

The district is raising wages and salaries by $679,000. What are we gaining there and most importantly, what are our kids gaining?

I read with great dismay a comment by the superintendent in the Leader. The statement attributed to Dr. Entwistle was “the major driving factors” of the proposed $2.6 million expenditure increase come from fixed costs and other items out of the district’s control, which include $678,602 in contractual wage/salary obligations.

Since when are labor contracts outside of the district’s control? Who negotiated these labor contracts?

It wasn’t the voters. I find the apparent lack of ownership over labor costs by those in school leadership positions outrageous.

If the statement was meant purely as we’re in the first year of a three-year contract, or so forth, that’s also misleading.

Contracts can be re-visited, especially when we find ourselves in such trying circumstances imposed on us by the state. The comment should not be that they are out of our control but that they are hard.

In summary, I wouldn’t read a lack of participation as apathy on everyone’s part, but also as displaying a certain level of frustration with this budget.

One frustrating aspect of this budget for many is they see their taxes going up $679,000 for wage rate increases when their own personal increase this year may be flat. And they’re frustrated by the fact that there is no real meaningful discussion or ownership over this issue.

Perry posed the question about an additional $390,000 cut: “Can you imagine what that will look like?”

I can answer what it should look like: a $289,000 wage rate increase with no cuts to positions or services, not a $679,000 wage rate increase.

Josh Suliman Scarborough

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