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SB-2 towns find deliberative session no substitute for town meeting

To The Daily Sun,

In a recent letter to the editor, Janet Cote recommended that Bristol adopt SB-2 and do away with the Town Meeting. I suggest to you, the voter, that this proposal receive a resounding "No."

Many towns grabbed hold of the SB-2 proposal when it was first enacted and since then have seen greatly reduced participation in what is called the Deliberative Session. In some towns, the only non-board members of the community present are the Supervisors of the Checklist. Why is that? Voters don't think they need to be there because the vote comes on voting day.

The Deliberative Session acts largely like a budget hearing. It gives those present a chance to hear what the selectmen have proposed for the coming year. At this meeting, a person unhappy with the proposal could bring enough friends to outnumber the board and other attendees and vote to cut the police or other department budget to zero by passing it on a voice vote. You would have no recourse except to vote against the total budget on voting day and revert to last year's budget. There's no chance to go back and amend it. It is finalized at the meeting and no changes are allowed afterward.

I am not suggesting that there is anything legally wrong with SB-2. What I am saying is don't be fooled into thinking that large numbers will come to the session. It just doesn't work that way. Town after town has seen attendance fall off and such a lack of interest has caused problems. When you're participating in Town Meeting there's a give and take, a chance to hear out the position of the opposing sides and to judge where you stand on the issue. This is the essence of the Town Meeting. It might be considered an inconvenience by some, but isn't one night a year spent on town business well worth it?

Don't give it up. Town Meeting is one of the great treasures of New England self-government.

Fran Taylor


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Gilford School Board deliberately trying to misinform voters

To The Daily Sun,

Wow! Just wow! The Gilford School Board's organized campaign of misinformation continues.

A series of letters from the School Board's most ardent and outspoken supporters appeared in this paper, each containing information or statistics that would only be available from the SAU office. Am I making the claim that these letters and talking points are part of an organized effort to deceive the voters? Yes I am. In my last letter I pointed out how the School Board is trying to trick voters with creative accounting; I believe I called it a shell game. Well, on Thursday in a letter signed by School Board Chair Karen Thurston, it has become very transparent that that the School Board has zero interest in being honest with the voters about their budget or the proposed collective bargaining agreement. In this letter, that I am sure she didn't write herself, she made the wildly confusing claim that they are spending $1.4 million less than last year. They make this claim because they think the voters are stupid, and will believe that the $2.2 million bond for the Elementary School upgrades was actually part of their annual budget. As I noted in my last letter the only money raised from taxation for this bond last year was $36,805 for the first year's payment. The $2.2 million bond is paid back over 20 years and only the annual payment is included in the budget.

The people who wrote the letter that Mrs. Thurston signed are trying to combine the $2.2 million bond (not raised though taxation) and last year's default budget to make this year's proposed budget appear lean. The false $1.4 million (less) claim made in the letter is not a mistake. It is a deliberate attempt to confuse voters into believing the proposed budget is fiscally responsible when it is anything but.

The same letter states that the $167,500 in capital reserve funds is not to be raised through taxation but rather taken from this year's surplus. Sounds good, right? Except, these "surplus funds" is taxpayer money; where do they think it came from? This surplus would otherwise be used to offset the tax rate, so now more money will have to be raised to though taxation to cover the budget. Once again, this is a deliberate attempt to mislead the voters.

Now let's talk about the proposed collective bargaining agreement. In an interview for an article in this paper Superintendent Beitler outright lied to the reporter and, by default the public by claiming the amount of money raised to cover this contract actually decreases every year. Mrs. Thurston deliberately failed to mention that the annual increases compound, so the actual amount needed to be raised through taxation to cover the cost of this contract (assuming that the cost of health insurance never increases and the Cadillac tax doesn't go into effect) is as follows: Year 1 - $297,000, Year 2 - $565,000, Year 3 - $810,000, for a total cost of $1,672,245.

Neither the School Board nor the superintendent has never actually mentioned these figures and these accurate figures are not mentioned anywhere in any of their (mis)information packages or the SAU website. The fact is this contract is huge. The union did agree to pay a larger share of the health insurance cost. Currently teachers only pay 5 percent in the second year of this contract they will pay 7 percent and in the third year they pay a whopping 10 percent. So Mrs. Thurston is bragging that they got the union to agree to pay an additional 5 percent over a three-year period. This is one hell of a deal for the union as the cost of their health insurance has increased by 14.4 percent in just the first year in which there is no increased contribution by the union membership. We cannot sustain this rate of increase. Enrollment is way down and the costs are growing at the fastest pace since the inception of the SAU in 1998.

I stand by my numbers! Don't be fooled by School Board's misinformation campaign vote down this bloated budget and huge collective bargaining agreement.

Kevin Leandro


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