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The Laconia tax cap preevents wasteful & excessive spending

To The Daily Sun,

In reading Mrs. Vaillancourt's letter (printed Thursday, March 24), I agree with some points and thought more clarification was necessary regarding the purpose of the Laconia tax cap and because of it, all that she wants will always be there.

Laconia is a city that is also the county seat. Therefore, we have financial obligations that are not imposed on the surrounding towns and villages. It was requested of the council to help with the "runaway" spending that would help carry the city into the future on solid ground. It was successfully argued that the purpose of the tax cap is to put the "brakes" on emotional spending requests and place more attention to care for the needs of our community services and then, and only then, apply to discretionary items.

Remember, all bonds were/are a borrowing avenue, and you have to pay bonds off without allowing other services to be shorted.

As for the arts threatened to be cut, when it comes to the School Board, which is an "autonomous" entity. They have their own needs and wants which are then submitted to the council for an up or down vote. My personal experience is that they selectively answer questions if they are asked any at all. However, most of the time the response is, "We'll get back to you on that," but never seem to do.

For example, while a councilor for Ward 1 and as a past educator in the Claremont school system (the poorest in the state) there was considerable scrutiny on a teacher needing/wanting a day off. Substitutes at the time were paid $25 per day. During my stay on the council, Laconia paid $60 per day. When I questioned the district on their budget line for substitutes totaling over (approx.) $585,000 divided by $60 it was jaw-dropping to see how many times the district would budget for teachers to be gone from their classroom. Illness ... well of course. Death in family ... absolutely. However, I was told not to question, just and up or down vote.

The next day I received a call from an educator who said, "You're right, stay with that charge. Have the district give you the absentee reports of each school; it's all documented. You'll find that the teachers are not there on Fridays and Mondays frequently. " When asked at the next budget hearing, "We'll get back to you on that." Hmm, they never did. Musta been a touchy subject.

So my question to Mrs. Vaillancourt is, "What's the substitute line reading currently?"

A couple of other interesting budgeting tactics is that they submit for the same amount for a teacher that has been there for 20 years (for example), however, she/he decides to retire/move (either prior knowledge or suddenly) and the replacement might be a first-year or more, but not 20 that is paid at a reduced rate. Which line is the excess noted?

Lastly, comes to Mrs. Vaillancourt's concern. They always head for the "arts will be withdrawn." That's extortion to the taxpayers. Music is so important; I wholeheartedly agree. I was privately classically trained starting at 12 years old and was playing with the senior high orchestra by 14. Music actually got me into college. That's why they pick the arts; they know it will rattle the masses. I support other cuts than the one that wouldn't allow a student to shine. The arts is a measurable individual accomplishment.

The tax cap prevents wasteful and excessive spending when there are so many questions without reasoning or answers. It focuses on needs, and then the wants. Taxpayers don't "bond" or print money for their needs, they earn every dollar.

My suggestion is that folks ask the hard questions above and find out how many substitutes are being utilized, how much is paid in annuities. Ask if taxpayers are still funding their union dues to the NEA ... etc. Finally, find out how much of the $1.6 million in known surplus from 2005 was spent the last 10 years. The financial officer at City Hall should have that figure. Pam Reynolds knew they had it, but sadly she's retired. (There's) no telling now.

Council won't get the answers. However, Mrs. Vaillancourt, you might. Oh, let's hope the arts aren't cut. The city invested in the Colonial Theater just for that purpose. Like they say in politics, follow the money. Yes, I would start there.

Judy Krahulec

Laconia

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Budget cuts mean more parents will cut their losses and move

To The Daily Sun,

Dear Laconia School Board:

Being a member of the working class, I did not have the luxury of attending Holy Thursday Mass at noon yesterday, and therefore was unable to attend your board meeting last night at Laconia High School. This being said, I was left shaking my head in both frustration and disgust to hear that you approved the budget as is, dismissing the numerous letters of support in keeping the Huot Child Development Center open.

It sickens me that elected officials would listen only to people in power instead of the people who actually voted you into the very positions you hold. I did attend the previous school board meeting where the budget cuts were first presented publicly to an overflowing SAU meeting room. I am aware that the City Council asked for you to cut last year's budget by $1.5 million dollars, and yet you approved a cut of over $1.6 million instead. The Huot Child Development Center cut was going to save you $82,000 in operating costs and could have easily been removed from consideration by you, the board. In reading countless letters you received from the public on how the Huot Child Development Center has helped middle class working families, I cannot help but think that you simply refuse to actually look out for this dwindling population in what used to be a vibrant city.

It is already disturbing to me that none of our three elementary schools offer a gifted and talented program for kids who are above the bar and quite frankly need to be challenged and kept engaged. Meredith, Gilford, and Belmont, the surrounding towns that touch Laconia, have such enrichment programs. By eliminating the Huot CDC, and replacing it with two half-day preschools, you are again basically saying "SCREW YOU" to the middle class working families. Our children will not be able to attend these government subsidized programs, leaving us with few options.

I recently discovered the Pleasant Street School Title I preschool program only has 10 children attending. This is not even close to capacity or what they intended for attendance numbers. If we cannot even fill the spots we currently have for Title I half-day programs, where does the need for two additional copycat programs come from? Are you withholding facts from the public that indicate the need? If so, it is beyond time to share these facts with those it will impact directly.
It left my blood boiling at the meeting I was able to attend where Ed Emond stated that the HCDC no longer filled a need of the high school students who observed these classes. I responded with I think a fair question, "Why does the need of the preschoolers come second to the high schoolers?" I was told that the Huot Child Development Center was not making enough money to sustain its value. Being a classroom teacher for 17 years, I never knew we were supposed to make money on the children we guide and teach. Why is it we don't value the very foundation of this system?

At the March 17th board meeting we listened to LHS principal, vice principal, and crisis counselor rattle off staggering facts about the current state of our student body at the high school level. When almost half of your children report living in a household where drugs and or alcohol are abused on a daily basis ... it's time to start fighting back with the City Council. As Sean Valovanie stated in yet another recent article, your decisions this week have only solidified more middle class families that once had faith in the Laconia schools, to sell, cut their losses, and move from this city that we know and love. You had some power to listen to the people and had some wiggle room on the approval of next year's school budget, and you didn't act. This to me is unforgivable. You needed to better communicate why the closure of this reputable program made the most sense. You did not. Most, if not all of the questions we asked at the board meeting on the 17th were left unanswered with the board staring blankly at one another, each hoping the other would speak up.

I know that being on the board is voluntary, and trust me, I would not for a second want to be in your shoes right now. However, you must remember that you have an obligation in your position to listen and actually discuss the valid points that arise from the people that voted for you to hold that seat. I did not hear one citizen of Laconia at the meeting advocating for the closure of this program. What does that tell you?

How much do you expect the working middle class to take before we finally say enough is enough? The budget eliminates the only full-day viable preschool option for us, increases the class size of our children to unacceptable student to teacher ratios, and eliminates many of the arts. When if ever are we going to finally put our foot down and push back at the City Council that has placed this burden on your shoulders? If the number of teacher positions being slated to be cut at all schools indeed happens, would that not free up additional classrooms to expand upon the Title I preschool programs within the elementary schools? This would allow the Huot Child Development Center to remain operating successfully as it has done for over 25 years. What were the discussions that happened about trying to fiscally save this great program? I really have not read any letters to the editor explaining these many questions that need to be answered. The citizens, tax payers, and concerned parents of Laconia's youth are awaiting your response.

Keith Noyes
Laconia

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