To The Daily Sun,
On March 8, Gilford voters will have yet another opportunity to take some small steps to attempt to rein in the spending of the Gilford School System that is, and has been for quite some time, completely out of control.
The taxes that support our schools are by far the largest single component of our real estate tax bills, and the taxes to support our schools increase year after year without letup.
Gilford has only three schools: The Elementary School, the Middle School, and the High School. Each of those schools has a principal and an administrative staff. One of the schools also has an assistant principal and the other two share an assistant principal in addition to their administrative staffs.
In addition, we are also blessed with a school administrative unit, SAU 73, with its own separate building, administrative staff, a superintendent and an assistant superintendent. The total compensation packages for the latter two administrators exceeds $100,000 per year for each of them.
An inconvenient fact is that the total student enrollment in our schools has been on a steady decline for most of at least the past decade. So, this year, we have a total of approximately 1,200 students in our three schools, including several hundred high school students from Gilmanton.
The proposed operating budget of $25,852,759 on Warrant Article III works out to be $21,544 per student, while the phony default budget prepared by the SAU and the School Board is stated to be $25,688,824 — or $21,407 per student. A true Hobson's choice. Neither is acceptable.
Compare, for example, what it would cost to send your student to the very well-regarded Bishop Brady High School in Concord: Tuition there this year, without considering any financial aid that might be available, is "only" $11,565.
For years, the spending on Gilford schools has been out of control and far out of proportion to what we should be spending compared to other towns of comparable populations. And academic results. What are we getting for our money?
Most parents know that the Scholastic Aptitude Test (the "SAT") is scored from 200 to 800 on each of its components, for a total maximum achievable score of 1,600. Most highly competitive colleges do not seriously consider students whose SAT scores are less than 1,300, but our high school seemingly takes pride that our average SAT scores for our high school students are approximately 1,075, accordingly to a widely-reported story in the local papers. Thus, it seems to me that we have been paying for a Cadillac education but getting a Chevy (or worse) delivered to our children.
Throwing more money into the pot will not solve the problem. The only way to begin to try to solve the problem is for the voters of Gilford to rise up and say, "No more!" by voting "No" on School District Article III.
As if the outrageous proposed operating expenditures are not sufficiently insulting to the taxpayers of Gilford, the School District Article II seeks approval for a bond issue of over $2.2 million supposedly to fund repairs and maintenance of the Gilford Elementary School. Aside from various questionable expenditures to be made from the bond in one project rather than over several years, it includes more than $42,000 for "clocks." A reasonable person might ask why the maintenance and repairs of the school have not been done each year considering how high the operating budgets have been.
Again, the only way to begin to try to solve the problem is for the voters of Gilford to rise up and say, "No more!" by voting "No" on School District Article II.
The only way to bring our out-of-control school spending under some modicum of control is to refuse to continue to be patsies and vote to impose some financial discipline on those who run our schools by simply voting "No."
Finally, this is not to question the abilities and efforts of our teachers, many of whom are not well paid and all of whom work very hard to educate our children. Our school problems are not with the teachers, but with the leadership of our schools, elected and otherwise. Leadership starts at the top, and they are the ones who should be held accountable for this mess.
Norman J. Silber
Member, Gilford Budget Committee