The Universal Notebook: Standing up for students

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Every year about this time towns and cities all over Maine go through a school budget dance that varies in its local particulars, but has a few familiar steps no matter where it is done.

School administrators develop a proposed budget. School committee members discuss the proposal, make adjustments and recommend a budget to the town council. Town councilors don’t feel they have done their jobs unless they cut a little something from the school budget. Sometimes they are successful, sometimes not. Town council sends a budget to voters. Voters generally approve budgets as recommended by their elected representatives.

Sometimes there is some local opposition to the school budget from people who say things like “You’re taxing us out of our homes,” “We didn’t need a Cadillac school system when I was in school,” and “I don’t have kids in the schools, so why should I have to pay?”

In Brunswick, where I have lived since 2014, the School Board and the Town Council did a little pas de deux around an $85,000 line item for paving a parking lot. It got taken out in one vote and put back after another. That’s a pretty typical school-municipal do-si-do. Town councils represent the best interests of the residents of a community. School boards represent the best interests of the children of the community.

In Yarmouth, where I lived from 1982 to 2014, served on the School Committee from 1995 to 2001 and school facilities committee for three years thereafter, there has always been a small contingent of fiscal conservatives who oppose the school budget. But they have been a distinct minority and easily outvoted both at Town Meeting, where these matters should be decided, and at the budget validation referendum, the second bite at the apple that tax-cappers won as a concession after the Taxpayer Bill of Rights failed in 2006.

This year, I was surprised to hear that the opposition to the Yarmouth school budget was more organized and more pronounced. I was surprised both because Yarmouth gets a terrific bang for its buck in one of the best public school systems in the country, and because Yarmouth’s tax rate is actually going down thanks to a revaluation.

I expect Yarmouth voters will support the school budget again this year because the town is populated by educated people who value education, but it may be a closer vote than usual. I, of course, have been accused of skipping town to avoid high taxes after my kids graduated, but I cheerfully paid taxes in Yarmouth for five years before my kids attended school and for five years after, and I now cheerfully pay taxes in Brunswick even though I will never have children in the system. That’s the American way.

Taxes, in fact, had nothing whatsoever to do with the decision to move to Brunswick. But property values did, and they are a direct reflection of the quality of the local schools. I could afford a lot more house in Brunswick because the schools aren’t quite as good. The property tax tango starts with people being willing to pay more for homes in towns with good schools. But as school supporters settle a town, those who think they do not benefit from good schools (because they don’t count increased property values, community spirit and quality of life) begin opposing school budgets.

One of the problems with the school funding dance is that only a handful of bureaucrats understand Maine’s arcane education funding formula, which annually produces winners and losers. This year, for example, Portland is losing $2.7 million in state aid to education, while Bucksport is getting an additional $2 million. Southern Maine subsidizes education in the rest of the state.

Another misstep is that the state has never fully funded education to the 55 percent mandated by law. To that end, a coalition of school supporters statewide calling itself Stand Up for Students has placed a referendum initiative on the November ballot:

“Do you want to establish a Fund to support kindergarten through 12th grade public education by adding a 3 percent surcharge on Maine taxable income above $200,000?”

You bet I do. So I will be voting for Stand Up for Students on Nov. 8 and I will vote in support the Brunswick school budget on June 14. I always vote for school budgets and bonds, because education is the best investment we can make, not just in our children, but in our collective future. We all benefit from good schools and an educated citizenry.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

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  • Chew H Bird

    One of the issues that people complaining about high taxes due to perpetually increasing school budgets is the lack of regular people who vote. I suspect the majority of people voting in Brunswick have a direct financial interest in the school budget. This is partly due to the lack of signage surrounding the vote, partly due to the actual budget amount being written not on the ballot but on the side of the booth, and a lack of other issues that bring voters to the polls. Add to this the size of the educational community in Brunswick (the largest single overall occupation in Brunswick is “education” in general), and we have a perfect storm of passing the school budget every year regardless of the reality of the numbers.

    The recent debacle between our Town Counsil (who obviously does not understand the concept of preventive maintenance in regard to paving), and the School Board having a pre-determined “fall back” position for their budget shouts political posturing in what I consider an offensive manner.

    While having a good school system is critical to our town, our elected officials have also a responsibility to the people who pay taxes and this responsibility has been too often ignored or dismissed.

    • EABeem

      I can tell you from long experience that the reason maintenance gets deferred until buildings have to be renovated and replaced is because of the pressure taxpayers put on school budgets. Maintenance is easy to put off in order to keep budgets down. And we ALL have a direct financial interest in the school budget. Also, most of us are the products of public school educations or have had kids in public schools. The idea that people without kids in the school don’t vote or wouldn’t support the school budget is mistaken. The problem is that selfishness has become acceptable in American society thanks to the tea party.

      • Chew H Bird

        From what I can tell (on Brunswick’s website, in 2011, 959 people voted on the school budget and 6538 voted in November. Other years follow a similar pattern and I know many people do not see the few signs placed alerting them to vote for or against the school budget (unlike November when candidates are constantly putting out signs and the news media hypes politics.

        This isn’t about the tea party. It is about doing more than the legal minimum to encourage voter participation. Political parties sometimes offer rides to and from the polls when they have a candidate but I don’t see than happening in June for the school budget. The fact is roughly 90% of people (in Brunswick) who vote in November do not vote in June and I believe it is a substantially a lack of awareness that 60 percent of their tax dollars are being earmarked in a minimally publicized vote.

        Also, if maintenance was presented as a cost vs benefit I bet the results would be very different. I think of the old Fram Filter advertisement that had the “pay now or pay more later” as a tagline.

        • EABeem

          My guess is most people know there is a vote in June and just don’t care. I believe the vast majority of citizens are not overly concerned about the school budget. If they are and they don’t know the process, that’s their fault.

          • truther

            I agree with Chew. These elections may seem open and obvious to the people already in the loop, but to those on the outside they’re hardly publicized at all. There have been meetings in Yarmouth on issues I care about that I’ve only learned about after the fact from the Forecaster.

          • EABeem

            Eternal vigilance…

          • Queenie42

            The duty of every citizen.

          • Chew H Bird

            Well, knowing there is a vote, and knowing when and being reminded by a barrage of signage is how many folks know to turn around and head to the polls. I’m not saying it is “right” but I think it is the way it works and many of the folks have been educated by our local public schools. I would appreciate a bit more awareness generated by our town reminding us that 60% of our tax dollars are being decided upon and we as citizens should voice our opinion at the voting booth. What is there to fear if we are a more informed community of voters?

          • EABeem

            Sorry, no sympathy from me. Back in 2001 when Yarmouth was putting a $20 million school facilities bond out to referendum, the school committee held something like 25 public meetings, some general, some targeted to specific audiences. It was all over the newspaper. We planned for two years leading up to the vote. But when we got to the town meeting, some clunks insisted we were ramming the plan through and they had only just heard about it. Too frickin’ bad. The bond passed easily. Voters need to take a little personal responsibility, stay informed. I don’t want my taxpayer dollars wasted sending constant reminders home to people who can’t pay attention. Talk about a nanny state.

          • David R. Hill

            Edgar is absolutely right. I remember those days all too well. There is nothing more exasperating for elected officials to spend countless hours in countless meetings in almost empty rooms only to hear, “I didn’t know you were thinking about that!” Really? I mean, really?

            Yes, we’re all busy, but it is a civic obligation to at least pay some attention to what’s happening in one’s own town.

            Usually it’s the conservatives who go on and on about “personal responsibility.” Well, here’s the best example of exercising that obligation.

          • Jimmy_John67

            “I believe the vast majority of citizens are not overly concerned about the school budget. If they are and they don’t know the process, that’s their fault.”

            Way to promote voter suppression. Keep the process as non transparent as possible then blame the voters for not understanding. For all your tea party bashing you sound/act just like them when an issue you care about benefits from having fewer eyes on it. Not surprising.

      • poppypapa

        In a former home, we were informed of any upcoming election by a notice that included the ballot we would be presented with, and a notice of where and on what day we were to vote.

        Exactly the opposite of circumstances here. The only formal obligation I know of for towns in this day and age is to publish a notice in the local newspaper.

        Since the local newspaper is far from being a vital cog in civic life, and is near to going under, such a notice is about as effective as posting a notice in the town’s sewer district office.

  • poppypapa

    Well, now you’ve really done it, big fella. You’ve said to Brunswick that our schools, and by implication the teachers, are not THE BEST.

    For 20 years I’ve listened to assertions that Brunswick has the best schools, and that our teachers are the best as well. Especially at budget season. I’ve looked for objective proof of these claims, and could never find any. Using spending as the metric is equivalent to saying whoever spends the most on groceries feeds their family the best.

    I’ve concluded that with few exceptions, every town thinks their schools are the best and their teachers are the best. Who wants to cop to living in a town and sending their kids to schools that aren’t the best?

    You can look to real estate agents as prime purveyors of this ‘best’ characterization. They like to say ‘everyone moves to Brunswick because our schools are so good.’ You eventually realize they never talk about why people move out of Brunswick, which is a part of the equation, since we aren’t sprouting new housing by the carloads. If you’ve got a prospective buyer in hand, and they ask about the schools, what are they going to say?

    I can’t wait to see what the Mommy Mafia has to say in response to your column, though it may be an inconvenient assertion that they’d just as soon not acknowledge.

    Trying to assign some degree of blame to the amorphous “Tea Party” is typical of you. It’s easier than studying the details and coming to a learned conclusion.

    I’ve followed budgets closely for twenty years or so, and clearly, school spending drives the town budget and our tax bills. Just as clearly, ‘for the children’ is a foolproof pressure play on elected officials and compliant residents. I’ve had town councilors tell me they tremble at the thought of agitating the schoolies.

    Levels of total spending are a poor way to assess such things. It makes more sense to look at spending per pupil. I don’t know what enrollment trends in your beloved Yarmouth have been over the years, but in general, Maine’s student population has been declining by on the order of 3% a year, and in Brunswick, the closure of the base was a major hit upon total enrollment, almost over nite. And then Durham decided to send their kids elsewhere.

    The net effect is that in the last ten years or so, Brunswick’s spending per student has increased from less than $8,000 per year, to in the range of $16,000 per year, with no discernible increase in performance. And that’s while taking three ‘aged’ school properties out of operation, and adding one super-LEEDS qualified school in their place.

    You mention “tax rates” as some sort of indicator of tax levels. Surely you recognize that the mil rate is not a useful measure or comparator of town property taxes. The only metric that matters when you live here is your tax BILL. Brunswick underwent a revaluation ten years or so ago, causing councilors to brag about how they had lowered the tax rate. We’re about to have another one. I defy you to show me a recent in state example where revaluation hasn’t increased town tax revenues and hence individual tax bills.

    Similarly, your ‘guess’ about voting in June is way off base, which you would know if you had been engaged over the years with the general public instead of the governing class. People are not ‘overly concerned about the school budget’ because they are clueless as to the details, and officials don’t make a point of seeking election turnout. Those that are concerned, generally ones who have lived here for a number of years, are fearful of speaking up because they will be demonized for doing so; ref: “for the children.” You apparently have not discerned the way the game works, and how those who might have interest are marginalized.

    As to school maintenance, your assertion there is off base as well. Officials know that the public are suckers for ‘we can’t continue to subject our children’ to such conditions claims, and that they’ll roll over for new buildings. Check into the way the Longfellow School hand-off worked. Look at what the consequences for letting the roof at Jordan Acres fail were. And then look at Teachers contracts and see how those annual per-programmed increases take the number one priority over everything else.

    If you’re in charge, do you want to live with leaky and cracky toilets for another year, or face an outraged teachers union and those they rally to support them? When’s the last time you heard of kids in elementary school organizing for bathroom renovation?

    I’ve had some experience trying to organize citizens over the years to get more engaged in such subjects. What I learned is not encouraging in the least. Further, for any who have their property taxes impounded, the annual increases somehow become lost in the greater view that things always go up, rather than having to stare at the tax bill and write out one or two checks.

    To wrap for now, I’m surprised to hear you say you moved here to get better housing value, since your kids have grown up and moved out, and you are in the classic ‘downsizing’ phase of life. Furthermore, Yarmouth was the perfect town, and yet you gave it up.

    I assumed you might have moved because your place was adjacent to the railroad tracks, and expansion discussions including as many as 22 round trip trains per day passing by on those tracks might have called into question your outlook for domestic tranquility.

    Oh well, what do I know. I’m just a Tea Party conservative bigot hater denigrator.

  • Raymond

    I am neither republican nor fiscal conservative. I currently work as an educator and have supported the Yarmouth schools for most of my 30+ years of living in town. I will be voting against the Yarmouth school budget. Why? Among other things, the school budget proposes a $1.1 million increase that includes over $460,000 to pay for out of town students to attend the Yarmouth schools. For each student that Yarmouth takes in, the state reimbursement does not cover the costs and Yarmouth taxpayers are left to pay the shortfall. These are not disadvantage students, children of immigrants or even just children of teachers that are scheduled to receive pay increases amove the COLA over the next 3 years but rather from families that see Yarmouth as a cheap alternative to private school. In order to pay for the $1.1 million dollar increase to the school budget, Yarmouth is making further cuts to the municipal budget including a half million from the public works budget. That means that the choice is not whether or not to pave the parking lot of the school but rather whether to repair roads in town that benefit all 8,800 residents Moving out of town because you “could afford a lot more house” in Brunswick sounds like a euphemism to say that Yarmouth is too expensive. It is time to balance the needs of the school district with the needs of Yarmouth older citizens, those on fixed income and others who would like to get to their modest homes without enduring a jarring, filling-rattling ride over unrepaired roads.

    • EABeem

      Better stay in school, Raymond, because you obviously don’t understand the school budget. Half the proposed $1.1 million increase is not driven by out-of-town students. That’s just nonsense.

      • Raymond

        What’s obvious is that you’re using poor and fallacious arguments to demonstrate that you are out of touch. While you were attending the meetings in Brunswick, I was attending the school budget meetings here in Yarmouth.

        • EABeem

          And apparently not learning anything if you still buy Bruce Soule’s bogus math. Out of town students are a good thing for Yarmouth. The town council applauded the deal with Chebeague. The opposition to the budget this year is pure nonsense born of a Trumpian hubris on the part of few people in town who could be putting their time and talent to better use.

          • Raymond

            and like trump, you’d prefer to insult people rather than have a productive exchange of ideas. Well done. The trump campaign could use a few new trolls. Perhaps you could put your talents to use.

          • EABeem

            What is the point of trying to have a discussion of facts and issues if you sat through school committee meetings and couldn’t figure out that Bruce Soule’s numbers are neither correct nor fair?

          • Raymond

            Who is Bruce Soule? It is my vote. I want the municipal spending restored and will vote against the school budget.

          • EABeem

            Your vote, but you didn’t come up with that bogus $460,000 figure out of thin air. Bruce Soule did and then spread that misinformation with his brochure.

          • Raymond

            nope, it was kicked around at the meeting along with the School’s own comments that they feel at time that they are running a private school with demands by parents of out of town kids to be able to interview admin and coaches. I am not opposed to education. I want balance to reflect the needs for others in the community….so that we don’t all have to follow your pattern of moving out of town once the kids are out of school and aren’t traumatized when you move away while they are in college.

          • EABeem

            No idea what you’re talking about. Taxes had zero to do with my decision to move.

          • YarRes

            ED, Didn’t you move about the time the Town Council decided to give us the new Sewer fee?

          • EABeem

            I see the budget passed by a 5-1 margin. Yes!

          • Bill

            Classic Hobson’s choice offered by Ed Beem-you may have any opinion on this issue you like as long as it agrees with mine.

          • YarRes

            The Town Council didn’t applaud the deal with Chebeage. In fact, Randy Bates,the Chairman,said the council should really look at all the out of town kids in the future.

    • Bruce Soule

      In addition to postponing the repair of 60 roads in Yarmouth, they are being added to a Capital Improvements Program TO BE BONDED in up-coming years as a project. So instead of paying for road repairs as we go, annually, they are being postponed and we will end up paying interest on the bond that’s floated (and subsequently higher taxes).

      • EABeem

        Totally inaccurate. The municipal budget was not reduced in public works or road improvement in order to accommodate the school budget. The road budget is up $10,000 over last year. The reason I get so upset about Bruce Soule’s attack on the school budget is that it is based on bogus numbers and flawed reasoning.

        • YarRes

          Gee…Who to believe,Bruce or ED? Bruce,methodical engineer; ED,emotional liberal. Hhmmm…..uuuuummmm…Sorry ED,you lose.

          • Jean

            Good point YarRes.

  • jack bauer

    For some, more money is always the answer.

  • Jason Coombs

    I understand taxs as a necessity but part of your story could be confusing to those from away. You stated Yarmouth has excellent schools and I totally agree and you link property tax to that( or part of it.) You also state that you can afford more home here in Brunswick ( where I have lived for 43 years, my whole life) because the schools are not as good. OK, here’s my point, if our schools are not as good, why do we spend the most of any town/city in the state to the tune of $16,000 per student? Wouldn’t it make sense that the old saying “you get what you pay for” should apply here yet is somewhat off? Just a thought.

    • EABeem

      I imagine some of the per pupil cost has to do with the loss of the students from the Navy families and to charter schools. It is not just a simple of matter of cutting budget when you lose students. You still have to maintain most programs, but you have fewer people so your per pupil costs go up. And don’t get me wrong, Brunswick has very good schools, but by most measures they don’t quite measure up to Yarmouth. Still, it’s the difference between a 9 and a 10 on a scale of 0-10.

      • Chew H Bird

        Failing to reduce personnel for maximum efficiency when a student population decreases is simply poor management at taxpayer expense.

        • EABeem

          No, it is not. You can’t fire the third grade teacher just because there are 15 instead of 23 kids in the class.

          • Chew H Bird

            Correct, but one teacher can teach 24 students instead of two teachers with a class size of 12 each. Optimizing staff, core personnel, management and overhead are critical components for any undertaking. The ability to adapt to changing conditions is something that fiscally prudent organizations do on an ongoing basis to maximize productivity while minimizing costs. I have seen very little (if any) of that skill set utilized within Brunswick town limits by people whose paychecks rely on taxpayer funds.

      • poppypapa

        Careful, there, Eddie. Never know what you might run into when you walk backwards.

        The Navy paid something in the range of $1,000 per military dependent student when they were here to ‘offset’ local costs. As such, the loss of the military students was a veritable financial windfall to the department, since each of those students barely contributed any revenue.

        As to not being able to reduce staff with reduced enrollment, you should know that the post base school realignment and closure ended up placing each grade level in only one school. So in the past, when there was say, a first grade in four different schools (Coffin, Longfellow, Hawthorne, Jordan Acres), for some time now each grade has been concentrated at one location, making staff reduction due to student decline the easiest it could possibly be.

        Enrollment peaked roughly 12 years ago, with a budget of $27.7 million. Now enrollment is down by more than 1,000, and the budget is up to $37.7 million.

        Student count down 30%; budget up 36%. Yup; sounds like great fiscal stewardship to me. Per student costs virtually doubled.

        Wonder how Bowdoin, Colby, and Bates have done during the same time span?

        • EABeem

          You knew all this and you did nothing about. I blame you. But to my point, the Brunswick system lost 1/3 of its students, closed schools and laid off employees. Obviously that has something to do with a high per pupil cost when you suddenly divide the cost over fewer students. And I do not believe for a moment that Navy kids only paid $1,000 a year. That may have been what the Navy paid, but the state must have given the system a per pupil allotment

          • poppypapa

            Yup, I did nothing about it. And you do not believe the citation ‘for a moment.’ Good; dig the data up yourself. For the most part, the Navy payment was in lies of property taxes.

            I suppose the state must have given some as well, like they did for all other students, but the fact is that taken over the whole, when the students left, the decline in revenue was less than half of what it cost to educate them.

            As long as you know they laid off employees, you must have the data on how many. Please fill us in. I’ve been operating in the dark all these years, not studying the data, or doing anything about it. Not speaking up, not writing, not coming before the council, or any of that.

            Fortunately, I/we now have you to pick up the burden and speak for we the unworthy and unwashed.

            Maybe one of these days you’ll take up the issue of how much Bowdoin pays toward town operations.

          • EABeem

            As a general rule I do not accept any facts or figures offered by anonymous online commenters. I have yet to find any that are accurate.

          • poppypapa

            Nice cop out, especially since you know exactly who I am.

            “I have yet to FIND ANY that are ACCURATE.”

            Seek and ye shall find.
            ======================================
            As scarce as truth is, the supply always seems to exceed the demand. Winston Churchill complained, “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”
            ======================================

            Similarly, I do not accept any facts or figures offered by so called journalists who look down their nose at readers in their head shot, and who part their gray hair down the middle.

            I’m sure, however, that you accept facts or figures offered by incompetent media outlets who claim they are government ‘watchdogs.’

            This explains a lot. Thought it does not explain why you haven’t challenged those who grovel at your feet in praise of your views, offering added materials for your views, all under obvious nom-de-plumes.

          • EABeem

            Even more reason to question their accuracy. But the column above which has generated so much interest (as in 1,200 shares) isn’t about the Brunswick budget and I don’t pretend to be familiar with it. But I am happy to pay whatever I am asked in support of Brunswick schools.

          • poppypapa

            Good thing that head shot doesn’t show more of your tweed jacket. With all that self-stroking, you’ve probably worn several holes in it by now.

            PS: Self-adulation is the insincerest and most repulsive form of flattery.

          • YarRes

            Poppy. Don’t pick on ED’s tweed jacket. He’s trying to self identify as a journalist AND a sophisticate.

          • Jimmy_John67

            If you are happy to pay whatever you are asked to support Brunswick schools then I am asking you to donate $10,000 to them this year and every year in perpetuity until you finally leave Brunswick. Please post a copy of the cancelled $10,000 check made out to the Brunswick a School District in next week’s article. Unless that is you only talk so boldly when you are referring to spending other people’s money?

          • EABeem

            Property Taxes Paid by Bowdoin College

            $218,747

            (Year Ending June 30, 2015)

            Fees Paid by Bowdoin College to the Town of Brunswick

            $5,270 Tipping Fees (Refuse, dump fees)

            $6,209 License Fees, Vehicle License Fees and Permit Fees

            $4,542 Fire/Police/Rescue Details, Alarms & Related Fees

            $16,021 Total Fees Paid

            (Year Ending June 30, 2015)

            Unrestricted Bowdoin College Contribution to the Town of Brunswick

            $125,900

            (Year Ending June 30, 2015)

            Unrestricted Contribution to the Town of Harpswell

            $9,000

            (Year Ending June 30,2015)

            Unrestricted Contribution to the Orr’s and Bailey Islands Fire Department

            $1,000

            (Year Ending June 30, 2015)

            State Sales and Use Tax Collected by Bowdoin College

            $166,209

          • poppypapa

            Let’s see; as of 2012, Brunswick had a total valuation of $2.058 billion. $782 million of that was exempt from taxation, leaving $1.277 billion in taxable valuation.

            I’ll take a wild guess that of the $782 million in exemptions, something like $600 million of that might be attributable to Bowdoin.

            At a tax rate of 24.00 per thousand or so, that would yield a property tax bill of $14.4 million for the college.

            Property tax revenue then was in the $32 million a year range, so if Bowdoin was to pay their ‘fair share’, if would have increased town tax revenues by 45%. Alternately, it could have reduced the tax collected from the rest of us by the same amount.

            But hey, they kicked in nearly $345,000 in lieu of those $14 million or so, and no doubt it stretched their finances to the breaking point.

            You can, however, ignore these data points as you wish.

            It is your right as a common good progressive, and a fan of Venezuelan style governance.

          • Jimmy_John67

            If your point in posting these figures was to illustrate that Bowdoin does not even come close to paying what would be the assessed taxes and fees on their hundreds of millions in property and equipment then mission accomplished! Once again I see your crusade for better funded schools only means that people on fixed incomes should feel the pain and “pay their fair share” and not an institution with over $1 billion in the bank. Great ethics you got there!

  • Bruce Soule

    I’m really surprised at Edgar Beem’s vitriol, his sarcasm, and name-calling. No need for that, especially from a person who calls themselves a professional journalist.

    The facts and figures for Yarmouth were sent to me via e-mail by Superintendent Dolloff, and he confirmed them in public at the annual Town Meeting on June 7. In fact the cost per student is higher than we were originally told, at about $14,000. I simply did the math, 3rd grade math really, and calculated how much Yarmouth residents pay for non-resident students.

    We were told at Town Meeting that the School Dept. accepts non-resident students “if there is space and they will not pose a burden”. But at some point we don’t have enough space for Yarmouth resident students, and it is next to impossible, and in some cases illegal, to tell the existing non-resident students to leave. We enter into long-term contracts and those are difficult to break. Poor management and short-sighted.

    Total Current Yarmouth Cost/Student = $14,000

    Chebeague I Students = 24; tuition/student = $9500; Yarm cost = $4500
    Chebeague Total Expense = $108,000

    Private Tuition Students = 18; tuition/student = $9500; Yarm cost = $4500
    Private Tuition Total Expense = $81,000

    Children of Non-Resident Teachers = 25; state subsidy = $2600; Yarm cost = $11,400
    Children of Non-Resident Teachers = $285,000

    Total – $474,000

    • EABeem

      So how about, Bruce, a $1,000 bet on whether the budget passes, loser to donate $1,000 to the Yarmouth school system? I bet it passes.

      • Jean

        Any “man” that makes a public bet like that has to have trouble in the bedroom.

      • YarRes

        ED, Is $1000 what you save each year in taxes since you moved?

        • EABeem

          Nope, pay about $1,500 more a year. Yarmouth is a bargain.

          • YarRes

            Your nose is growinggggggg ED.

          • EABeem

            We pay about $5,000 here and paid about $ 3,500 there. Get Bruce to do the math for you.

          • JohnQCitizen

            If you only paid $3,500 per year in Yarmouth and sold your house for $275,000, you have been underpaying taxes. A house valued at $375,000 is paying around $7,500.

          • EABeem

            I did not sell the house for $275,000 and I paid what I was billed.

          • JohnQCitizen

            Ed,

            Although I do not agree with most of what you editorialize and do not particularly like your conservative bashing, I know who you are and the family you raised. That being said, and I think you will agree, you have paid modest taxes in Yarmouth. Like most towns in southern Maine, the town assessors are government employees like to put it to people from away who they feel make more money and therefore should pay more taxes (the progressive mindset). All the new homes in the last 25 years or so in Yarmouth, Falmouth, Cumberland, and Cape are paying a premium over the older Homes, as they feel these people have a greater ability to pay. I know this from experience in the valuation business. Ed, didn’t mean to bash you, and I know you always paid your taxes on time, but this is the way it is, and why conservatives are so upset with our municipal spending habits!

          • Jimmy_John67

            He sold it for about $240K according to the public sale records. That being said his house was clearly undervalued from a tax assessment perspective. I’m guessing he didn’t try too hard to clear that discrepancy up considering his core beliefs only apply when others are footing the bill.

          • YarRes

            Very good point

          • YarRes

            Very good points,John Q and Jimmy

          • Jean

            At least something on Ed is growing.

    • YarRes

      Bruce,that’s what liberals do when they loose an argument…they name-call. Their behavior goes back to that of an 8 yr old. Nooo,let me take that back. It goes back to a 6 yr old’s.

      • EABeem

        363-73. You lose bigtime. And I expect you will lose against on 6/14.

      • David R. Hill

        Just ask Pocahontas, Lyin’ Ted, Low Energy Jeb…

    • EABeem

      So, Bruce, your supporters are now resorting to attacking my manhood, a low blow usually only employed by gun nuts when I write in support of common sense gun control measures. I understand that they must be upset and embarrassed about getting trounced at the town meeting, so if they need to take it out on me, fine. Meanwhile, how about that wager? You donate $1,000 to the Yarmouth schools if the budget passes and I will if it loses.

      • YarRes

        ED,You set yourself up for that. Bruce had nothing to do with it. You are so willing to give away your power,then cry that life’s unfair when things don’t work out.

      • YarRes

        A gun nut, according to ED( for you folks who are new),is someone who believes in the 2nd amendment.

    • YarRes

      Bruce, You hit the nail on the head when you said ED “calls themselves a professional journalist”. We’re now in an era when a man who “calls himself a woman” can use the lady’s bathroom. So ED self identifies as a professional journalist.Could be worse….he could self identify as a woman who’s also a journalist.

  • Jimmy_John67

    Ed Beem has repeatedly stated that he didn’t make any money from selling the house in Yarmouth he owned for 30+ yards which appreciated approximately $200K in value during the time he lived there. Anyone whose personal finances are such a mess that they can’t make money off of something like that is someone who shouldn’t be weighing in on budgets of any kind with anyone.

    • YarRes

      Ed(ED) Beem repeatedly states that he didn’t move out of Yarmouth because of higher taxes/costs, but nobody believes him.

      • Jimmy_John67

        Yes the “we wanted more house” excuse for leaving Yarmouth once his kids left school is one of the most obvious Beem falsehoods of all time. Does he really expect anyone to believe that as soon as all his kids were moved out and he had an empty nest that it was then that he decided he needed a much bigger house at all costs? On top of that, he paid approx $75,000 MORE for the house in Brunswick then what he sold his Yarmouth house for. Does he expect anyone to believe that there was simply nothing livable for 2 people available in Yarmouth for $315,000? It’s just so obvious that he left because once he no longer needed the school district, he no longer wanted to pay the Yarmouth taxes and fees which on a $315,000 house are quite substantial. Meanwhile he lectures and scolds others who choose not to flee the town as he did. His hypocrisy is simply astounding.

        • YarRes

          Not only that Jimmy,but isn’t ED always preaching “community” this and “community” that? A few years after his kids are out of the school system,he bolts. Where’s the “community spirit” in that? And I think his timing was such that he left about the time the Yarmouth Town Council gave us the new sewer fee. You’ve gotta watch out when liberals start talking “community”. I bet Hitler told the Jews that fencing them into one section was good for their “community”.

          • poppypapa

            Don’t forget the threat of 22 trains a day passing by adjacent to his Yarmouth place.

        • JohnQCitizen

          Although I do not agree with Ed Beem politically, I would like to defend him in this housing move. Ed and his family lived in a small house in Yarmouth and now his three wonderful daughters are having grandchildren, and I heard that Ed and Carolyn wanted a bigger house for the family to gather. Not all of if us go to Florida with the kids are scattered across the country and want a smaller home. I wish my kids were closer. Give Ed a break from his very stimulating (although conservative bashing) articles. We would all miss his weekly provocative columns if he were to retire! Go Ed!

          • Jimmy_John67

            Sorry I don’t buy that explanation at all. There were plenty of larger homes available in Yarmouth for $315K. He just didn’t want to stay in Yarmouth and have to pay the ever increasing taxes.

            I’m not a conservative so I could care less if he bashes conservatives but I for one would love it if his column was gone. Maybe then we could get an intelligent political columnist who doesn’t just blindly follow left or right wing ideology.

    • Jean

      That’s why his wife gives him $10 a week.

  • Queenie42

    According to the National Priorities Project, the cost of the Iraq war since 2003 has cost the town of Brunswick $37.57 million dollars and counting.
    Mission accomplished?

    • poppypapa

      You might want to revise your wording a bit; it lacks precision, and in doing so, is off the mark.

      And think about staying on the subject.

  • JohnQCitizen

    Facts please to back up this outrageous statement!

  • EABeem

    Let me finish with these observations. I defend a school budget and for that I have my manhood, my motives, my professionalism, my sports jacket and my honesty questioned and I get compared to Hitler. That’s the kind of thing you expect from out-of-state gun rights advocates, but you don’t expect it from local people about local issues. Obviously, some local folks are not well-meaning, responsible citizens. I fully expect the Yarmouth school budget to pass easily on Tuesday. I am pleased to see that this column appears to have set a new Forecaster record, having been “shared” 1,200 times. As Mr. Soule has not taken me up on the wager to benefit the Yarmouth schools, I will assume he also knows it’s a safe bet that the budget will pass. As it has been more than a day since I made the proposal and he has not responded, I withdraw the offer.

    • Bill

      Ed, you criticize others for levying personal criticism against you when, in fact, it is you who referred to people opposed to the increase as “gun nuts”, etc. These types of comments are usually spoken from a position of ignorance and do nothing but polarize parties and create deviciveness. Further, I dont believe I have met one individual throughout this campaigne that is against the 5% increase who is not opposed to at least SOME increase. They just feel 5% is too much. This is not an unreasonable position in my estimation, since rarely have I ever seen a 5% budget increase in any organization, public or private, pass at such a high percentage. The problem with articles such as yours and other journalists who have written on this issue, is that they create an “us against them” mentality. They do nothing to create meaningful dialogue and address the concerns of all interested parties.

      • EABeem

        The column above is not inflammatory as far as I am concerned. It is a straightforward discussion of my observations about the school budget process. I realize that some people feel the increase is too much. Obviously, your elected officials and the vast majority of people at the town meeting did not. But if you read the comments of some of these folks, you’d be hard put to figure out what they think other than that I have erectile dysfunction and behave like Hitler. That is the kind of crap I take from the guns and gonads crowd, but I am surprised to get it from Yarmouth residents. My passion for this topic is born of all the time I put in helping to create the great schools Yarmouth has today and all the misinformation put forth by those opposed to the proposed school budget. I have seen this sort of thing for 30 years — some clever boots plays around with numbers and thinks he’s uncovered waste, fraud and mismanagement when what he has usually uncovered is his own misunderstanding of public education and the school funding process. For instance, the fact that a school district spends and average of $12,000 per pupil does not mean that adding 25 students thus costs 25 X $12,000 or $300,000. In any event, I give up now and rest comfortably knowing that the majority of Yarmouth residents understand what great value they get for their tax dollars.

        • Bill

          Ed, I beg to differ that your article is a discussion of your “observations” about the budget process. It’s not about process at all; but rather, your clear support of the proposed school budget, which is your right. Let’s just be honest about it. As for your comment about personal attacks levied against you by readers, I would say that both you and the readers who made those comments are culpable. I agree that individuals should not be making personal attacks; but similarly, you also should not be making derogatory comments about people simply because they disagree with, for example, when you reference them as: gun nuts, trumpians, tax avoiders, etc. Don’t your comments send the same negative message where the only possible intent is to insult and degrade? The question is rhetorical and the answer obvious.
          In a response to one of your readers you indicated that you would expect personally insulting comments from people who are from away, but not from Yarmouth residents. Maybe you should look in the mirror and take a bit of your own advice.

  • Archibald_Haddock

    The 3% surtax is hideous. It pushes combined federal, state, and town taxes to around 50% of taxable income for some Maine families. Yes, that is correct. Even leaving aside sales and excise taxes, which in many cases, mine included, take it well above 50%. The thinking seems to be that it’s someone else’s money and they won’t miss it so let’s take it.

  • areyoukiddingme

    Its an odd thing for me and EABeem to be mostly on the same page. But I think this all really misses the boat for the discussion. Much of the research on education spending concludes that spending and academic achievement are pretty much decoupled. So that means you have to dig into the details on what they are doing with the money. Mostly people don’t do that and the waste factor is pretty high.

  • poppypapa

    Read purloined comments here:

    https://www.scribd.com/doc/315833782/Comments-on-Beem-Op-Ed-of-June-16

    And after you do, ask what might be going on with manipulation of comments on Beem columns, and who knows what else?

    • EABeem

      Be sure to let me know when you find out. I have no control whatsoever over comments, which should be obvious from the comments themselves.

      • poppypapa

        Not really, since I have no way of knowing what comments by others don’t make the cut.

        • EABeem

          Nor do I, but it has been my impression that only comments that include obscenities and threats are deleted.

          • Chew H Bird

            Actually, Disqus, (like all discussion boards or bulletin boards) has a built in or third party filter configured by default intended to weed out not only profane language, but posts conforming to generalized spam, or words that may frequently be part of bullying or threatening content. Other words are often filtered based upon certain types of internet generalized abuse where certain communities (with no relation to Disqus) may ban certain words of phrases based on mis-use by a community.

            How things generally work, is of a post is flagged by the automated censor police, a phone call or email to the editor asking for a review of the post will fix the issue.

            I have had posts caught by the automated filter and if the newspaper subscribing to Disqus (or other service) has full time staff it has been dealt with quickly. Media sources that are on a shoestring budget often have little control over any content.

            I have been a moderator or administrator at a large automotive message board for almost 20 years and to this day our finely tuned filtering software still makes errors that we need to manually correct.

          • EABeem

            Thanks. Very helpful. I sometimes get the impression that posters think that I or the editor censor their comments. Given the amount of criticism I get, I would think it should be obvious that no one is trying to protect my feelings. The more flak I take, the better the paper likes it.

    • Chew H Bird

      Automated software (and this is an automated filtering system) often has difficulty with people who actually understand the English language. The filters are based on internet captured content and the majority of us, (myself included), often have difficulty when a common phrase in spoken language has an entirely different meaning when interpreted by content filter based upon internet phrasing.

    • EABeem

      You are totally off-base…as usual. I have no control whatsoever about what gets posted in the comments.