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Costs & budgets don't work as school board chair tried to describe

  • Published in Letters

To The Daily Sun,

A couple of weeks ago we read the Gilford school superintendent's quotes regarding the 2017-18 fiscal year budget. A member of the Budget Committee promptly and properly exposed it as piece of fiction. There was no question that it was intentionally misleading. The proposed budget and the proposed union contract is extraordinary in its current and future costs.

The teacher's contract by itself will increase costs by a minimum of $1.6 million over its three-year term. This is only if medical costs do not further escalate. Every medical plan in Gilford's system is a "Cadillac" plan. Family plans will cost taxpayers approximately $4,000 more a year this year for each employee.

This compensation is above and beyond the raises that are being touted. When reviewing the proposed contract you must look at the total cost aspect of the overall increased compensation being proposed. No one is talking about the total compensation package and how taxpayer costs are escalating.

Now we read the letter of March 2, submitted by the chair of the Gilford School Board Karen Thurston. I could not believe what she tried to foist off to us in addition to the superintendent's previous artful depiction.

Costs and budgets do not work as she has tried to describe. First, the budget number that will show on the warrant is $26,019,631 and does not yet include any costs increases should the proposed teachers' contract be approved by the voters. Pure and simple this is indeed over $294,000 higher than the default budget the SAU is currently operating under. Keep in mind that the business administrator is expecting they will have close to a $400,000 unexpended balance at the end of June when the fiscal year ends. Also keep in mind that they gave unauthorized raises that cost in excess of another $100,000 out of this default budget. A total difference of close to $800,000 above and beyond what was needed to operate in the 2016-17 school year.

Now the chairperson tells us if you add the $2.3 million bond approved for the Elementary School maintenance, they are really saving us almost $1.5 million over last year's budget. If her compilation was really a comparison from year to year she would have accounted for the cumulative cost effect of the proposed teachers' contract — $1.6 million or more — if health care costs do not increase more in the last two years of the contract. If they escalate as recent history has shown, the total contract cost could exceed $2 million.

Sorry but budgets just don't work the way she has manipulated the comparison.

If she truly believes that this is how the SAU budget should be evaluated, she is extremely naïve and should apologize, resign, and then take an accounting class.

Since I do not believe this is the case, she should resign for presenting this deception and apologize to Gilford. We, the taxpayer's of Gilford, deserve better than this. Somehow our board members always seem to forget that they are there to represent the taxpayers too, at an arm's length relationship from the administration.

When you vote this year remember these things. Join me in voting against the budget as proposed. The default budget will work just fine again. This is also a good reason why the default budget should be prepared by the Budget Committee. They are fair in their evaluations of the budgets.

Join me in voting down the proposed teachers' contract. It is too expensive and the teachers should be absorbing more of their costs now. The chair failed to mention in her letter that it is not until the third year of the contract that teachers reach the 10 percent participation level of health plan costs. The 10 percent level of participation should be included in the first year and increase each year of the contract. They are only paying 5 percent now.

In the private sector, employees pay far more than that now. We need parity. We also need true taxpayer representation in any contract negotiations. And if our teachers are as caring as we are told they would have compassion for those paying the taxes. Did anyone bother to check what Social Security participants are receiving in the form of a COLA this year after not having one in three of the last five years?

Both the proposed budget and the proposed teachers contract are extraordinarily high. Please Vote "No" on these issues. Also, vote "No" on the proposed reserve funds, Articles 5, 6, and 7.

David R. Horvath, Sr.