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Forum, Nov. 24: Budget Cuts in Claremont


Thursday, November 23, 2017
Budget Cuts in Claremont

I, like the vast majority of Claremont residents, am disgusted by the obscenely high tax rate in our city. I, along with them, have no problem with trimming both the city and school budgets. 

However, the action taken by this School Board shows a complete lack of understanding of school finance. My 13 years as a school business administrator allows me to make this statement. 

Unless SAU 6 is different from the vast majority of districts, approximately 70 percent of its budget is in employee-related expenses. Add in athletics and extracurricular costs and you are probably at 72 percent.

That leaves the superintendent about 28 percent or approximately $8,736,000 for operating expenses. Cutting $1.2 million from this is a 13.7 percent reduction. 

How do you take this amount out of the line items which include, but are not limited to, heating fuel, utilities, food service, busing, textbooks, workbooks, supplies, repair and maintenance, etc.

We pay the superintendent to operate this district. Let him do his job. He needs to present the budget he requires to operate efficiently. Board members then make tough decisions to reduce it to one they believe better addresses the needs of the students, staff and taxpayers.

These cuts are very painful, but they’re yours to make.

George Caccavaro Jr.

Claremont

Tucker Mountain Is Special

Tucker Mountain has always held a special place in the hearts of many from Newbury, Vt., and beyond. It’s where I asked my wife to marry me, nearly a century after my great-grandparents fell in love with the hilltop and its spectacular view in the 1920s. It’s where my grandparents dated in the 1930s, before starting a family and watching their kids play under the twin birches that crowned the hilltop. It’s where my folks hosted their wedding brunch, and my aunt and uncle were married in ’72 before making a home down Tucker Mountain Road.

It’s where countless marshmallows have been lost to as many campfires, countless songs sung and countless memories made by family, friends and strangers who’ve loved going “up Tuckers” over the years.

In an effort to preserve and improve access to this special place, now owned by my extended family, Tucker Mountain and its surrounding 465-acre forest land is being offered to the town of Newbury for $25,000 — a one-time cost of just $10.87 per taxpayer. This offer is possible in part through a gift of roughly half the land’s value by our family, plus funds raised by the Vermont Land Trust, to make it affordable for the town.

Regrettably, misinformation has circulated recently regarding the proposal which needs correction: As stewards of the land, we’ve worked with a highly respected forester to implement a state-approved management program that requires continuous compliance, even while efforts to fund the forest’s acquisition were in progress. Though limited stands were harvested recently as required by law, the lion’s share of salable timber remains. A post-harvest professional inventory values current standing timber at $441,857, including forested areas untouched for decades, plus a sizable sugarbush available for lease. The rumor that we’ve left the forest with only worthless “saplings” is categorically false and contrary to our legal obligations to the state, and our ongoing desire to benefit the Newbury community.

Those who value preservation of Tuckers as productive forest, wildlife preserve and recreational destination should vote yes on Tuesday, Nov. 28 to ensure a strong, economically viable plan to protect Tucker Mountain and restore access to it.

Xander Charity

Studio City, Calif.

Learn About Racism

Frances Brokaw wrote in a Nov. 18 letter to the Forum, “Having an unconscious bias does not make anyone a bad person, and does not mean anyone should feel guilty. It does mean that they should make an effort to educate themselves about the history of racism in our country.” I totally agree, but how does one living in the Upper Valley learn about racism? I suggest the following:

Attend the “Difficult Conversations About Race” gatherings held each month at the Howe Library in Hanover. This group began with an Osher class held in 2015 by the same title led by Ellen Bettmann. She continues to explore this difficult topic through discussion, readings and videos. Watch for dates in the Valley News calendar.

Read these three books:

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson — a portrayal of three blacks who during the great migration of people left the South and went North in search of a better life.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates is considered by many to be the James Baldwin of our time. In a letter to his son, he confronts the notion of race in America and how it has shaped American history.

The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein chronicles how federal, state and local governments gave rise to and reinforced neighborhood segregation.

Attend a reading of Frederick Douglass’ The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro, held July 4th, or a date close to it, sponsored by the Vermont Humanities Council.

I felt quite alone in my efforts to educate myself on racism until I took the Osher class. Being able to discuss racial issues happening around us, what we are reading and personal experiences, is invaluable. I hope you will avail yourself of the opportunities in the Upper Valley to learn about racism in our country, and the role we as white people can play to make a difference.

Myrna L. Brooks

Quechee