To The Daily Sun,
As I complete my first year of a three-year term on the Gilford Budget Committee, I believe that there are a number of things that voters should know before voting on March 8.
While looking at the town budget proposals for the different departments, I considered things such as "needs" and "wants." The "need" things I voted to leave in the budget and some of the "want" things as well. There were some of the "want" things that I felt could be done without for now, so I voted against them. I did this because there are many of our citizens who simply can't afford it.
We had healthy discussions on every item. None of the budget committee's decisions was haphazard. Every one on both sides seemed understanding and respectful of the other side's opinions.
When we got to the school budget, things started out similarly. As things progressed, the school side seemed to start behaving differently than any of the town departments. One of the things that I noticed was the fact that the superintendent dictated the agenda of the School Board. Prior to this, I was under the impression that the School Board was kind of the "lead" as far as policy is concerned.
At this point, I feel like if the superintendent was to declare that each class needed a giraffe, he would automatically receive a majority vote from the School Board and probably without any discussion.
Also, I noticed that the default budget deductions didn't seem at all reasonable. The spokesperson explained that the line item for the removal of the Imagination Station was not a one-time expense because they always need that amount of money for "something."
It seems to me that in regards of transparency, that particular line item should be labeled as "pet projects" of the School Department and let the voters see it as it is.
My judgment concerning my voting to cut a few things that they "wanted" was brought into question during the school budget because of my age and the supposition that I didn't have any children in the system. I eventually explained that although I didn't currently have any children in the Gilford schools, my grandchildren, children, I, my father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather all went to Gilford schools — since 1842 — and we aren't planning to move anytime soon, so she may eliminate her fears, my decisions are more likely genuine.
At the deliberative session, I would estimate about 75 percent of the audience was made up of people who derive at least part of their household income from the school system. They are there to watch out for themselves and you should be there to protect your wallet.
I don't believe that the Budget Committee's budget would have been amended, if as few as 100 additional taxpayers that didn't make their living from the School Department showed up and voted.
Then the School Board screams "victory" in The Daily Sun, saying that the taxpayers had spoken when the reality is that the school employees had spoken. As registered voters they had the right, but it is still self-serving.
Then of course, there is the fact that 26 people signed a petition to put it on the ballot to eliminate the Budget Committee. Twenty of them work for the School Department, two others are related to someone who does, and four others signed it.
A spouse of a School Department employee, lead the charge to propose eliminating the Budget Committee, claiming that it is an extra layer of government. In fact, the Budget Committee is a needed layer of government overseeing, the town and school, on behalf of all Gilford taxpayers.
I think that the School Board should be eliminated if anything, especially where as all they seem to do is parrot what their leader, the superintendent, says. I've since been advised that this is usual and customary.
If you vote to eliminate the Budget Committee, I think you may as well get ready to start signing your paychecks and sending it into the SAU.
On Tuesday, March 8, please vote "No" on Article 30.
Harry H. Bean
Budget Committee Member