When is Enough Enough?
During a recent Budget Committee (BC) meeting I walked in at the 11th hour and voted “NO” on recommending the proposed lacrosse warrant article. There was quite a bit of whispering from the usual suspects who were not pleased with my vote. How could I possibly be prepared to vote if I didn’t hear the forty minute discussion? Was I informed? Why did I hurry a two hour drive to the Atlanta airport, pay an extra $50 for a earlier flight and drive as fast as I legally could from Boston to cast my “no” vote?
The proposed warrant article was written and distributed back in November. Immediately upon seeing the warrant article back in November, I found out that the lacrosse program was requesting full funding from the tax payers. To refresh everyone’s memory, football wasn’t widely supported until the program agreed to offset a significant portion of the program through fundraising. I have always strongly believed that fundraising is part of the educational process in teaching children the value of something while building character and team work skills. The proposal also includes plenty of “stipend” money for the coaches, which I have always opposed. Not to mention that it’s well known that the lacrosse team completely refuses to help the football team maintain the field in which they both share.
I’m actually stunned this budget request garnished any “yes” votes but there are those BC members that have yet to meet any spending proposals they don’t like. The big surprise however was a “yes” vote from John O’Brien, who represents the Selectmen. That means an automatic second “yes” vote from BC member Phyllis Corrigan because she parrots his votes. The reason his vote surprised me is because he expressed a great deal of concern over the school budget. Mrs. Corrigan’s vote makes no sense because she once fought for more focus on academics, believing the sports programs were more than sufficient. Their votes make absolutely no sense toward fiscal responsibility.
If there ever was a spending item that represented “spending just for the sake of spending”, this one would be the poster child! It’s not like the Gilford school district is lacking in a wide variety of electives. Gilford students have more than enough extracurricular choices to keep them engaged in school; some would say too many. Every BC member also knows the additional hidden costs for these programs such as, administration costs, field maintenance and escalating insurance premiums. Once all the “non discretionary” spending is accounted for, the sports programs account for about 30% of the discretionary spending. If you add the administration cost, it moves closer to 40%. Adding another sports program to the overall budget is nothing short of completely irresponsible.
The school district has been very fortunate these past few years with teacher retirements, staff reductions and some debt retirement. That gravy train has come to an end. The non discretionary spending increases will no longer offset staff reductions and the student population will soon bottom out. If Gilford experiences any catastrophes such as emergency building problems, health insurance increases, new playing field needs and you have the making for huge spikes in the school budget. Is it any wonder why the Superintendant’s office is expressing serious concern toward future budgets?
Given that back drop, how could anyone possibly support adding yet another program to the school budget? This has nothing to do with Lacrosse but one of fiscal responsibility. It’s time for the voters to say “enough is enough”.