To The Daily Sun,
I'd like to take a moment of City Manager Scott Myers', Mayor Ed Engler's, and the City Council's time to discuss my concerns with regard to the position the city is currently in, particularly the budget and its affect on the school system. To be blunt, I think that the current budget situations will only poise the city for a downward spiral.
Having lived in Laconia for 20-plus years, I'm quite proud of what we have. For starters, there is a strong sense of community. My personal experiences with the schools, thus far, have been very good (though I will admit that I've been a driving force to ensure that my children get what they need out of school). With all of the recent improvements and added business downtown, I've watched it go from a ghost town to a bustling mini-metropolis. As of late, you can't find a parking spot — that's a good problem to have. Moving ahead, with the Colonial Theater on the cusp of a rehab, things are really looking up.
Beyond that, however, I have a pit in my stomach over the future of our city. I'm not just talking about the drug problems. The problems are deeper than that, and my biggest concern, right now, is what I've been reading about the tax cap. This tax cap will have a profound short-term affect on the education of our children.
Our schools are already in trouble and have been for a while. I don't recall what list the elementary schools were put on a few years back, based on standardized testing results, but it's not good. Unfortunately, there aren't many other options for sending my children. So, I'm doing my best to supplement and be a voice for their education, making sure their needs are met.
As an example, I just looked up the ratings of our schools on several real estate web sites. Zillow has Woodland Heights and Elm Street Schools rated at two on a scale of 10. Pleasant Street School and the Middle School get a three, and the High School gets a five. Trulia has similar ratings for our schools. That's not good, and it's not doing anything to attract new residents or businesses.
It won't stop there, either. Having a quality school system is key for any community. If you don't have a good school system, you won't attract new families to move to the city. If you don't get people to move in, you won't keep employers around because there won't be a well qualified work force available. Real estate values will fall. Tax revenue reduces. People don't have jobs. Government funding and subsidies increase.
It's a vicious circle, and guess what? We're there. That's us — today.
Take a look at the percentage of free and reduced price lunches served at any of our schools. It's staggering, but not because there's a perception that people are taking advantage. These people need help. Why? Because there aren't enough well-paying jobs out there to help them support their families. These are families that need the GOT Lunch program to deliver lunch during the summer, because they're that bad off.
The reality is that the home lives that these children live has a direct impact on their schooling, and we, as a society, need to help these children to become productive members of our society. But, it doesn't stop with those families. All children deserve and need a quality education.
Education is a core to every facet of life. Without it, we are nothing.
We have been spending time and effort on revitalizing downtown, and it's coming along nicely. Now, we need to redirect our efforts back on the schools. We are in dire straits and we need you to make the changes that can poise the city for the future that it deserves. The start to that, in my opinion is in our school system, and the tax cap is doing nothing but limiting that.
Do I want to spend more in real estate taxes? Nope. But, the harsh reality is that this beautiful city will crumble to pieces if we don't do something now. So, if that means I pay more, so be it ... because we're going to need to spend some money if we wan to make things better.
I thank you for your time, and I look forward to what changes may come about. If I can elaborate, please don't hesitate to reach out to me.
- Category: Letters
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