2017-08-04 / Letters

Letters to the Editor

To the editor:

Look out Scarborough, you were duped again. The second school budget vote was undermined again by those promoting a misleading picture of a tax increase. And, this time, their angry rhetoric went up a notch on social media, allowing and even encouraging, uncivil language about our town’s staff, councilors and board of education members.

Is this the kind of town we want? I think most of us would say no. Let’s be clear, we’re talking about a minority of the town’s population promoting fake news. The challenge for us, then, is coming together and becoming inspired by a sense of community to turn out and vote for the collective benefit of the town. Let’s end the hostage situation engineered by the few purporting to speak for the many.

The opposition to the school budget is hyper-focused on percentage increases of the school budget request, rather than the actual impact on tax payers. The school budget was prudently prepared by our town officials, town council and board of education. The actual impact on the average voter is around $150. I’m not dismissing that this has an effect on all of our wallets. But, factually, more than half of their purported increase this year was pushed down from Augusta’s lack of support for schools, while the actual impact on the tax bill is many percentage points less. The result of their’s and Augusta’s lack of support is that we face fewer services and staffing for our children.

I assert that the anti-tax group’s argument is entirely misplaced on the wrong metrics. Schools cannot and should not be run like a business. Those saying that are misguided and are misrepresenting the process of actually running schools. I say this having particular insight over the last few years of how much hard work and detailed analysis goes into operating and budgeting our schools. The opposition to schools claim that spiraling cost increases have occurred, which is not true.

As a result, from multiple years of these school budget fights, we risk falling further behind in educational programming to deliver what our children need to learn, because of their fabrication. The right metric for the school budget should focus on what educational outcomes, at a reasonable cost, will help our children succeed in a rapidly evolving, technology driven, global economy.

Please, understand that those so against the school budget have no concrete ideas or interest about how schools should be run, or know what items could safely be cut to avoid our children falling behind tomorrow’s global economy. They are hung up on numbers that have no relation to what will result in a good education for our children. Schools are not a business. They are our future. Please get inspired and turn out to vote for our schools and our town. No more cuts to education.

Chris Lyford

To the editor:

The school department pulled out all the stops for the latest school budget referendum vote, including some highly questionable ones.

Scarborough School Superintendent, Julie Kukenberger, made a prerecorded call (robocall) to all parents of students using the school’s’ communications systems and private student databases, asking residents to vote yes in the school budget referendum. There was also at least one email sent to some parents – parents with kids in sports programs received an email from the athletic department urging them to support the school budget at the July 25 referendum. I believe that the schools’ use of publicly funded resources to influence a political question is highly inappropriate.

The schools used taxpayer resources to campaign for one viewpoint in a question that impacts all taxpayers. This would be very similar to the school department endorsing a particular candidate for the school board. No one would think that was ethical or acceptable. And I do not believe their use of public resources to endorse one side of a referendum question is ethical or acceptable either.

The schools should not be using taxpayer resources to influence votes on taxpayer funding of their budget.

Annalee Rosenblatt

To the editor:

It is summer again in Scarborough, which means it’s time for two things – lobster rolls and school budget votes. Timing aside, it’d be easy to think these two things couldn’t be less alike, but they have more in common than you realize.

Not sure what I mean? Have you ever tried a lobster roll from McDonalds? These sandwiches may technically be lobster rolls, but I think we can all agree that they’re not the authentic Maine experience that Ronald Mc- Donald wants us to think they are.

That’s because, with lobster rolls, it’s not enough to be accurate, you have to be honest, too. Which brings me to our town’s school budget debate and those 6.8 percent signs popping up in our community.

Are the signs accurate? Yes. This year’s budget directs more of our property taxes to our local schools than last year.

Are the 6.8 percent signs honest? I say, no. The message behind those signs is clear – our local schools are out-of-control, bloated with waste, frittering away money, demanding more and more taxes, and forcing our neighbors out of town.

That’s simply not true. Our property tax rates are some of the lowest in greater Portland and per student costs are better than most schools in the region. It’s not always perfect, but the council and school board have found a formula that works – not only has it given us great schools, it’s helped fuel a 20 percent increase in property values over the last five years.

Another thing lobster rolls and school budgets have in common – being pennywise and pound-foolish is a surefire recipe for disaster. Instead, let’s all choose to keep Scarborough vibrant and growing by voting yes on the school budget.

Jason McGovern

To the editor:

Having spent nine years on school committees in Massachusetts, I was impressed with the efforts of both sponsors and critics of school budgets. The Scarborough Town Council and school committee and the SMARTaxes group exemplify those efforts in the time and effort they put into the very difficult and complex task of hammering out their respective positions on the economy of the town and the schools in particular.

Unfortunately, the opposition offered a skewed view of the budget realities in that the projected tax increase is about 3 percent which encompasses the 6.8 percent increase in school spending. Adjusted for inflation and contracted expenses the school budget drops to about 3 percent.

That 3 percent buys us a lot. In fact a quick run of the numbers finds that a $47 million dollar school budget broken down by 3,000 kids over 180 days costs us about $80 a day, not factoring in expenses that run for 2.5 months in the summer. Could we find a baby sitter for that money?

Then there is the matter of what we are spending that money on coming out of one of the lowest tax rates in southern Maine at just over 16 percent.

As we go to the polls again in a few weeks, folks might keep in mind that our schools are at or near the bottom of regional spending on administration, transportation and facilities.

While all that is going on, we offer a first rate state of the art academic and special needs program with 34 extracurricular activities.

In 2016 we graduated 257 students with 80 percent going on to some form of higher education, in many instances to some of our more prestigious colleges and universities.

Let’s step up and support our kids and administrators. Vote yes.

Art DiMauro

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