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Forum, June 2: Rivendell’s school budget needs a new approach

Published: 6/1/2020 10:00:13 PM
Modified: 6/1/2020 10:00:10 PM
Rivendell’s school budget needs a new approach

Now that Rivendell Interstate School District voters have convincingly defeated a bloated, impracticable spending plan, let’s move forward with a more feasible budget proposal that acknowledges the realities facing the district.

Most important: The student population is declining, precipitously. The School Board’s own projections show a decrease of more than 50 students next year, a drop of more than 10% districtwide. This means staff cuts.

There should be no discussion on this point; far fewer students justify employing far fewer staff. Any responsible financial oversight of a publicly funded budget dictates this. The fact that the School Board chose to add a million dollars in spending in the failed budget while realizing the district faces a major decrease in students is troubling; will they heed the voters’ message, or will they ignore it?

Secondly, the COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted financial pain on many district residents. If the taxpayers’ ability to pay is truly one of the factors considered when the board drafts a new budget, this should be a major consideration. Will the Rivendell board think of those facing economic uncertainty, or will it ignore them?

I would respectfully suggest a level-funded spending plan of $11.3 million for the coming year. Personnel cuts could and should make up for the necessary increases in health insurance and remediating past accounting and budgeting errors. The tax impact of a level-funded budget will still be difficult for some, but it will be manageable for the majority and far preferable to the embarrassingly out-of-touch property tax increases that voters rightfully rejected.

I wish the Rivendell board well in its upcoming budget deliberations, but the message sent by voters is an unmistakable reality check. It is time to take a new approach.

Bruce Lyndes

Fairlee

The writer is a former Rivendell Interstate School District board member.

We’re losing rights to fear

The coronavirus must, undoubtedly, be taken seriously, but there may be a more lasting and detrimental virus at hand: fear. Fear is far more transmissible, weaponizing every space and person, leading us to work against our own best interest. While fear is the antagonist in our lives, the opportunists with money and power on their side are robbing our civil liberties.

In March, three states — Kentucky, South Dakota and West Virginia — elevated oil and gas facilities to “critical infrastructure” status, penalizing protests against the fossil fuel industry. This means that public assembly and protests against these industries could result in exorbitant fines, arrests and even jail. First Amendment: Check.

In April, two California doctors posted a video questioning the facts and guidelines promoted by the World Health Organization. The video — considered harmful misinformation — was subsequently removed from YouTube, in effect censored from a public forum. Other platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Vimeo have also censored videos and social media posts expressing dissent of certain government and health organization mandates. Since when are dissent and harm synonymous with one another? While conspiracy theories may abound in uncertain conditions such as these, shouldn’t the public have the right to choose what to believe? Again, First Amendment: Check.

In March, the House of Representatives reauthorized three provisions of the Patriot Act. On May 14, the Senate passed its version of the reauthorization bill. In the process, it narrowly defeated an amendment that would have limited government surveillance of Americans’ internet browser and search histories without a warrant. Fourth Amendment: Check.

How long until the Constitution itself becomes an anachronistic relic of a bygone era? How long until the Constitution is reconstituted into something unrecognizable?

The coronavirus should not be ignored or minimized, but now more than ever we need to remain vigilant to the disfiguration of our freedoms and rights. Fear may be a necessary safeguard against danger, but we can’t allow it to master our judgment and divert our attention.

PHIL MONTENEGRO

Claremont

Most are going to get virus

Many of the doctors and health experts assert that we will have recurring bouts of COVID-19 until we have a vaccine — maybe two to four years. I’d assert that, in the recurring bouts, the vast majority of us will actually contract the virus. Sheltering in place may reduce the rate of infection, but I think most of us will contract it sooner or later. And most of us who are going to die will die anyway, whether sheltered in place or not.

PAUL TIERNEY

Norwich

Trump must be censured

President Donald Trump recently retweeted a supporter’s comment that “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.” Is that really what the president thinks?

My father recently died from the coronavirus, as have some 100,000 other Americans. My dad was also a Democrat. Does that make him a “good Democrat”?

My dad was an engineer who worked on the Manhattan Project and the Apollo Lunar Excursion Module, making sure the ascent engine would work reliably and return the astronauts safely to Earth. Like millions of other Americans of the “Greatest Generation,” my father believed in the power of science and the collective actions of society to achieve the world peace and international medical collaboration that lasted 75 years after the Second World War and which are now threatened by the policies of our current administration.

President Trump must be censured. Republicans have set no limitations on this madman. Vote this fall.

LARRY BURCH

Meriden




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