To The Daily Sun,
I wish to respond to Gilford School Board member and parent Ms. Gandini's letter published in the 3/9 edition of The Daily Sun.
Some of us who voted in the last election to put responsible parents on the School Board in lieu of the previous Professional Education Industry's ideologue hacks, were hoping to see some change in sentiment on the Gilford School Board. We were hoping to see more respect for the sentiment of the voters and to see some prioritization going forward for our school children's platforms, the supporting materials and resources, as well as infrastructure that support that, over outrageous increases in the costs of public employee compensations.
I thank Ms. Gandini for her historical explanation of the dark days for the Gilford school system. But what she now encourages in her letter is to impose the history that rhymes on the current student population matriculating through the Gilford Schools. The reason the seniors turned out in droves to suppress any super majorities to pass the then desperately needed new middle school bondings was the inability of the voters to restrain huge salary increases that only required simple majority votes to pass.
We were told that those in the public sector had to be caught up in wages due to the lesser improvements in compensation resultant of the '82 and '89 recessions. But the people in the private sector had had to get by with smaller 2 percent to 3.5 percent incremental increases coming out of those recessions. Our public employees somehow were needing 7 percent to +10 percent pay raises to "catch up." Back then our School Boards might have told us at public hearings on a teachers contract that the fringe benefits cost increases were not to be considered as they were "things they already had." As a result, our town's seniors got hit with big property tax increases and they voted their pocketbooks on new infrastructure.
Always we hear from the School Board "What is fair." The current proposed teachers contract provides the same old percentage PLUS step wage increases. This is NOT just a percentage increase, and the combined totals compound. Those beyond the top of their STEP do NOT cap out but get even larger step increases ("Step +") despite not moving over to the next step.
At this point, seniors have been out of luck for four of the last eight years a Social Security COLA. This year's puny increase went directly to a Medicare premium increase.
Please let it be clear to Gilford parents that if this contract is approved by the voters, it will become part of the future default budgets. That means that not only will we have those increases mandated, but ALSO the mounting other costs to the platforms now and last year postponed in favor of providing yet more employee compensation. No new track surface for the high school this year! No new high school stage curtain, fewer new band uniforms and some more postponements of addressing the costs of the SAU's four buildings planned maintenance and addressing of obsolescence.
If you are a Gilford parent with children in our public schools consider what is going to happen out of our demographic trends going forward. Do you want even more of your children being pushed into pay to play extracurriculars? Larger class sizes? Do you want fewer aides for classrooms? The squeeze of postponed repairs finally no longer able to be postponed needing to be paid for at the same time the compensations are taking ever larger big chunks out of the annual school budgets?
The SAU and board are not telling us the whole picture. They are supposedly not allowed to consider the whole tax picture. The county is going to be handing out a $9 per Mil tax increase. That will continue to grow and compound as the new jail is staffed with the 5 to 6 new employees required.
The town is also finding it hard to find and retain entry-level employees as many of those positions require better entry-level pay than now to incentivize. I can tell you that for seniors like myself suffering in retirement under financial repression and a declining fixed income, there is nothing FAIR in this proposed teachers contract at ALL. I have to, this year, pay more for my Medicare, probably next year, too. But nothing in the first year for the public employee's participation in 14 percent health care increases? FAIR?
Where is the schedule of actual average wages for our employees? All the SAU has provided is an average of the step schedules. At the deliberative session the superintendent did not even mention among the three major cost increases he described, the +6 percent increase to the employees' pension contributions with no participation by the employees. Where does the retired Gilford senior get their retirement asset increase to offset the same negative amortizations resultant of their cost of living withdrawals, the public employees are seeing in their own pension plan assets ?
Gilford is an SB-2 town. I think I know how the seniors are going to vote. If you want history to rhyme and have the physical deteriorations in our educational platforms reflect the mid '90s conditions Ms. Gandini has shared with us, go ahead and vote for the grotesque increases in gross sums for compensations in Art III of the School District warrant. The huge wage DE-COMPRESSIONS this contract will create will provide some, near the tops of the fourth step with gross wage increases three to four times the gross wage increases of the people in the middle of the first step schedule. That is fair, to give the near lowest paid employee a $900 a year raise to provide the highest paid with $3,600 raises? "They" will be back in another three years explaining how we cannot compete with other districts when "they" will be desperate to fill vacancies down as low as possible on the first step scale, unable to afford more experienced perhaps more effective teachers.
We will then need to increase by $2.5K on the first step and $12K on the top of the fourth step schedule? By then we will likely be operating on an annual default school budget and it will really be about the compensation's automatic increases in the default budgets. The Big Lie getting bigger that, "after all it's about the kids".
Please vote NO on Art III. Please vote NO on the School Budget now packed with the wish list costs of the public employees who packed the deliberative session, like a mob with pitchforks and torches. Vote for the what's in the best interests of our school populations NOT for more and it is still not enough "UNFAIR" re-allocations of our taxes to employee compensations. Let "them" use their chance to come back and propose a way for our public employees to get some of the modest TOTAL BENEFIT increases they certainly DO deserve. Timothy Sullivan
Gilford Budget Committee member
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