To The Daily Sun,
Gilford voters will have an opportunity to try to bring some sanity back into the Gilford property taxes on Tuesday when and if they vote on the School Warrant Articles.
The property taxes in Gilford are exceptionally high mainly because school spending has been out of control for years and it will continue to be out of control if what the schools seek on their warrant articles pass.
There exists in Gilford a "School Establishment," consisting of the administrators and other employees at the School Administrative Unit that covers only the 3 Gilford schools, together with the teachers and other employees at the three schools, and their apologists.
As much as the school establishment would have us all believe that we have outstanding schools in Gilford that produce outstanding results, the facts belie those self-congratulatory assertions, often made by the overpaid members of the School Establishment, including some who have previously written recent letters to this newspaper. But the facts do not lie.
The facts about the Gilford Schools, none of which have ever been disputed by the School Establishment, are simple:
Enrollment at the three Gilford schools has been declining steadily for over a decade. The total enrollment at all three schools, including 163 students from Gilmanton, is only 1,165.
The current proposed Gilford school budget works out to be over $22,000 per student, one of the highest in the state and country. Well above the national and state averages.
The School Establishment states that they do not have a conflict of interest policy nor a code of ethical conduct. So, one of the School Board members was a lead negotiator for the School Board with the teachers' union that produced the proposed new teachers' contract, with large financial increases, that just happens to cover as a member of the union that School Board member's daughter. What a coincidence.
Taxpayers are currently burdened with paying 95 percent of the health insurance costs for teachers, and the proposed new contract would only reduce that amount slightly over several years.
And seven of 12 administrators, one support staff member and 33 teachers have total compensation packages, including benefits, that cost the taxpayers over $100,000 each! How does that compare with the average household income in Gilford?
But when questioned about the costs, the answer is always "But it's for the children!" I suggest not. If it really were for the children, the Gilford students would be getting a better education.
As it stands now, less than 50 percent of the Gilford students are deemed "proficient" in math; our schools are ranked as mediocre at best; the average SAT scores of our student are mediocre and nothing to brag about; and our graduates rarely graduate to attend Top Tier four-year colleges.
The final insult is that the administrators currently prepare the state-required "default budget," which is defined by law, but they have in the past played with the numbers in a way that has allowed them to thwart the will of the voters. When the default budget, as prepared by the administrators, is presented to the School Board for approval, it is simply rubber-stamped with little or no questioning or discussion. The Town's Budget Committee has no say in it.
So, the only answer is to stop the madness by voting NO on Articles II, III and IV.
And voting YES on Article VIII, which would remove the preparation of the Default Budget from the School Establishment and place it in the hands of the Town's elected Budget Committee, thereby removing the fox from the hen house.
I hope you will carefully consider these facts and will put a stop to this insanity by voting appropriately.
Norman J. Silber
Chairman, Town of Gilford Budget Committee
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