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The cost of operating the schools in Gilford is a runaway train

To The Daily Sun,

This coming Thursday, July 14, is the last day to pay your Gilford real estate taxes without incurring an interest charge. Did you ever wonder why Gilford taxes are so high in such a small town? A quick look at your tax bill with a calculator will shed some light: The portion of your Gilford real estate tax bill that is for the Gilford schools is 48.1 percent of the total tax bill, by far the largest portion of your total taxes. Why?

Much of the factual information is contained in the town's publicly-available 2015 Annual Report, but not necessarily presented in a format that would make it easy for you to understand the largest components of our school expenses and where there appear to be large wastes of your tax monies. So I have extracted and reformatted some of the data, which produces some interesting information. If any reader would like to receive by email copies of the schedules showing these items as reformatted by me, simply drop me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I will happy to send you them by return email.

Please keep in mind what follows is based on the spending for 2015. Expenses in 2016 in the categories mentioned have almost certainly increased.

The 2015 enrollment in all three of the Gilford schools totaled only 1,207, including the several hundred students sent to our high school by Gilmanton. The total enrollment in the Gilford Schools has been declining fairly steadily for more than a decade.

Personnel costs in the Gilford public schools for administrative positions, rather than for teachers in the classrooms, seem to be out of whack.

Of total personnel costs of $17,327,366 in 2015 (including all benefits and tax contributions made on their behalf, on which they pay no income tax), $2,404,157 was for administrators. In the SAU alone, the superintendent and assistant superintendent cost $151,736 and $141,640, respectively, while six other SAU administrators cost in excess of $100,000 each.

The three school principals cost $118,911, $125,710, and $135,084, respectively, and the two assistant principals cost $122,918 and $115,182, respectively.

In the elementary school, the highest-paid teacher costs $131,055 and the lowest-paid teacher costs $47,352, while a total of seven teachers cost more than $100,000 each. In the middle school, the highest-paid teacher costs $119,444 and the lowest-paid teacher costs $56,650, while a total of six teachers cost more than $100,000 each. In the high school, the highest-paid teacher costs $119,160 and the lowest-paid teacher costs $40,644, while a total of nine teachers, three guidance personnel, and a media services director cost more than $100,000 each.

Ask yourself how these compensation packages compare to your own and to those of your neighbors.

After reviewing this data, some simple questions seem to arise naturally:

1. Why do we need our own School Administrative Unit serving only our town, and what do all of its employees do for our three schools that could not, or should not, rightfully be done by the highly paid principals and assistant principals in our schools? The total cost of the SAU essentially doubles the cost per student in our schools.

2. Do we really need to spend $193,279 in a single year for psychological services from four different professionals ($100,730 to one psychologist alone)? Were the services for the school students or the staff? To the extent that they were for students, whatever happened to the notion of parental responsibility? Do we really have that many students in need of psychological services whose parents are unable to pay and/or who do not have insurance coverage for them?

3. Why do our schools spend over $57,000 in a single year on what appears to be various organizations (often denominated on the vendor list by acronyms or abbreviations) most of which appear to have no apparent direct benefit to the students?

4. Why does the vendor list show numerous multiple entries for the same "vendor" listed in slightly different ways, which serves to conceal the actual totals paid to each "vendor?"

5. Is there anyone watching the expenditures with an eye toward reasonableness and proper stewardship of taxpayer money? If you think that the School Board is watching out for, and trying to eliminate wasteful spending, you are dreaming.

Are you going to believe the intense lines of smoke being blown at the taxpayers by those with vested interests in the huge school expenditures or, as they say, are you going to believe your lying eyes?

Here are some suggestions to consider as possible solutions to the problem of our runaway school costs in Gilford:

A. At the next school Deliberative Session, make sure to attend with your fellow Gilford residents and do not allow the meeting to be hijacked by those connected with the schools who always seem to try to increase the budget. Just vote "no!"

B. At the next town election in March 2017, vote only for candidates for the School Board who will promise to cut costs. That means most incumbents up for re-election should be thrown out of office by the voters.

C. If the proposed school budget is lower than the so-called default budget, you can bet that something is just not right and that those administrators who prepared, and those members of the School Board who approved, the default budget should be fired by the voters of Gilford.

D. Support changes to the laws to allow school vouchers in New Hampshire so that your pro-rata share of the schools' budget travel with the student and so parents can decide where to send their child without financial penalty. Where vouchers have been tried, they have worked.

Keep these facts in mind as you write your check for your taxes, and do not let the passage of time dull your memory of how badly you are being served by the Gilford schools' establishment.

Norman Silber
Gilford

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Jim Hightower - Disrgard for workers

If the chieftains of industry and their political henchmen want to know what's roiling the riffraff, they could read Thomas Piketty's landmark, 1,000-page book on inequality: Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Or, they could listen to one of Bernie Sander's hour-long, tub-thumping speeches. Or, they could just spend three minutes and 32 seconds watching an online video showing a Carrier Corporation executive speaking to hundreds of workers in the air-conditioning giant's Indianapolis plant this past February.

The proud Steelworker union members thought maybe they'd been called to the factory floor to hear about new orders for their quality products. After all, sales at parent company United Technologies were zooming — expected to jump at least $2 billion to $58 billion in 2016.

Instead of receiving praise and good news, however, they got an ugly surprise. In the fuzzy video recorded on a worker's phone, UTC/Carrier honcho Chris Nelson doesn't bother with any opening pleasantries. He gets right to the point, reporting in the dry tones of a corporate lifer that the bosses have decided that, "The best way to stay competitive and protect the business for the long term is to move production from our facility in Indianapolis to Monterrey, Mexico." KABLOOEY! He couldn't finish his sentence, for the entire assembly exploded like a human cluster bomb, with cries of disbelief, raucous booing, and a steady barrage of f-bombs.

"Please quiet down," the obtuse functionary instructed. But the devastated workers, realizing in an instant that Carrier is kicking their families right out of the middle-class, got rowdier. Then, as though delivering a line from The Godfather, Nelson assures the crowd that the corporation means nothing personal by taking their jobs: "This is strictly a business decision."

No, it wasn't. This was a calculated greed decision. Severing this workforce of 2,100 top-quality, experienced, and dedicated producers makes questionable business sense: The move to Mexico is expected to save UTC only $70 million a year in labor costs (a blip on the spreadsheets of global behemoth that hauls in $56 billion a year and has an uninterrupted 22-year record of increasing dividends).

But, UTC's greedy Wall Street investment bankers demanded that the giant go on a cost-cutting binge aimed at generating a 17-percent hike in its stock price over the next two years. And what better way to please big institutional shareholders than to show a cold willingness to whack payroll. While making such cuts is "painful," mused Carrier's top financial executive, they are necessary for "shareholder value creation," adding cheerfully: "We feel very good about being able to execute on that." So a city must suffer factory abandonment, and workers must have their decent-paying jobs taken from them so some distant, don't-give-a-damn, rich shareholders can see a dollar rise in UTC's stock price. "Execute" seems like the right word.

There's also an unstated motivation in play: Gregory Hayes's pride. The UTC chief had taken heat from a board of directors concerned that the stock price had not climbed as high as fast as Wall Street wanted. Indeed, last year, the board sliced his executive bonus in half. "It's embarrassing," a financial analyst noted. "He got dinged." But no need to cry for Greg, since his 2015 paycheck still totaled $6 million. (A typical Carrier worker would have to stay on the job 150 years to earn that much).

Welcome to the new Wild Kingdom of Corporate World, where prideful executive royals are empowered to uproot the livelihoods of commoners in a ploy to please Wall Street, manipulate corporate stock prices, collect extravagant bonuses, and save face.

Notice that such whimsy was pulled off autocratically. Despite a unionized workforce, UTC/Carrier simply commanded the workers to assemble so they could be unilaterally dispatched — there was no negotiation, consultation, or any other say-so by the workers, their community, public officials, or anyone else. This is our new norm of plutocratic rule, envisioned and implemented by the rampaging forces of corporate avarice.

This disregard for workers is not just a one-time Indiana problem. Carrier's chief financial officer blurted out to the New York Times that top executives are eyeing other factories to move to Mexico. Look out Charlotte (NC), Collierville (TN), and Tyler (TX).

The carnage on working class Americans won't stop until we actually start punishing these corporate malefactors.

(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)

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