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Letter: Affordable Fix for Mascoma High

To the Editor:

As the school year comes to an end and we congratulate the graduating class of ’13, the renovation of the Mascoma Valley Regional High School remains in limbo. With fire code issues looming, doing nothing is not an option. Band-Aids and a sprinkler system may be cheaper than a full renovation, but will cost us more in the long run. On the other hand, spending tens of millions of dollars and raising property taxes by as much as 10 percent has also proven unpalatable to voters year after year.

My perspective is that the school needs the work, but the prior plan would have wasted millions of dollars. We voters were right to reject it and demand better value. This is a question of balancing merits with cost. If the renovation could be paid for with a bake sale, most of us would agree that’s a good deal. If it cost $1 billion, most of us would oppose it.

While there are specifics I would change in the old plan, the School Board is best positioned to identify the school’s core needs. However, the School Board also appeared to put more effort into trying to persuade voters to support their plan as-is than into cutting waste and protecting taxpayers. The 72-page Mascoma Valley Regional High School Master Plan has 71 pages promoting the improvements, but only one explaining the budget. Obvious sources of waste included administrative costs and excess capacity expansion.

Budget waste hurts taxpayers and our kids, too. Higher taxes mean parents have less money for home computers, travel, museum visits, sports equipment, musical instruments, books and science kits. And many taxpayers don’t even have children.

Fortunately, small changes to the plan and a cost-blocking defense worthy of Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask can save taxpayers and our community millions of dollars. I ask the School Board to work with those of us who are eager to help transform the bloated plan into a lean win for taxpayers and students alike.

With two kids who will attend Mascoma High, I want a strong school. But there’s just no excuse for a 10 percent tax increase. Let’s get it right.

Colin Higbie