Letter: Reject the Yarmouth school budget proposal

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I urge the residents of Yarmouth to vote no on the proposed fiscal 2017 school budget that seeks a 5 percent increase. Simply put, the superintendent is seeking too great of an increase given this economic environment. It places too great a financial strain on our most vulnerable residents: those seniors on fixed limited incomes, who already have difficulty meeting expenses.

The Consumer Price Index over the last three years has, on average, increased only 1.1 percent. During the past two years, seniors have received no Social Security benefit increases. Added to that, Yarmouth recently implemented a $350 annual town sewer fee (on average), a new transfer station fee, and, the town is reassessing property valuations this spring that will undoubtedly increase property taxes for homeowners. All of these factors add up to one thing for seniors on fixed incomes: financial disaster.

The proposed 5 percent increase, on top of a 4 percent increase this year, is improper. Even Cape Elizabeth has proposed only a 3.2 percent school budget increase, and did so only after its town councilors rejected the superintendent’s proposed budget and had her reduce it by $181,000. Yarmouth’s Town Council should have made the same recommendation to our superintendent, but unfortunately, chose not to do so.

The proposed budget increase is simply too great for our senior citizens and I urge residents to reject it.

Ted Westerfield

  • Bruce Soule

    Control the expenses in any organization’s budget and you control your outcomes. The largest part of Yarmouth’s budget (68%) is school expenses. We cannot control revenue (state subsidies for schools, sewer user fees, transfer station fees, revaluation of property). We need to control costs.

    Forget that the mill rate is projected to go down. Focus on the biggest expense side of the ledger, the school budget. Expenses put into this budget will be with us for years to come unless they are significantly controlled this year, and each year.

    I am not anti-education or anti-teacher. Education and teachers are extremely important to our country. I am for controlling the education budget. You cannot continually raise the bar of expenses and expect all taxpayers just to keep paying. If parents and families want more and more extras for their children (more programs, more teachers aides, more coaches and assistant coaches, more teams converted from clubs, more class trips), they can fund it privately.

    We have lived in this community for 40 years. Some will say that others partially paid for my children to be educated here. Yes, that’s true, and thank you. But our two sons were in the school system for a total of 16 years, and we have been paying taxes here for over 40 years. So we have been paying for other children for 24 years. That’s over $75,000 (school portion of the tax bill) that we have paid to educate other children.

    Two years ago the school budget increased by 3%. Last year the budget increased by 4%. This year it is proposed at 5%. Extrapolate those increases over the next 10 years and the school budget increase will be about 50%. Whose income or revenue has or will rise by 50% over 10 years?

    It has been proposed to reduce our Municipal budget by 0.55%. Where did the savings come from? Our roads budget is not what it should be. We are robbing Peter to pay Paul – robbing from our town budget to give to the schools, and doing it to balance or reduce the tax rate to make us look better. Our roads are behind the recommended 12 year paving and maintenance schedule. Why are we not maintaining the infrastructure that we’ve paid good money for? The budget is shifting expenditures from the operations budgets to future capital improvements programs that will require bonding (and obviously payment of interest).

    Enough is enough. The Town Council has one more opportunity to ask the School Committee to reduce their budget and to give them a goal. It was done two years ago (the School Committee didn’t meet the goal), and it can be done again. Index it to some combination of COLA, CPI and inflation.

    Bruce Soule