To The Daily Sun,
This coming Thursday, July 14, is the last day to pay your Gilford real estate taxes without incurring an interest charge. Did you ever wonder why Gilford taxes are so high in such a small town? A quick look at your tax bill with a calculator will shed some light: The portion of your Gilford real estate tax bill that is for the Gilford schools is 48.1 percent of the total tax bill, by far the largest portion of your total taxes. Why?
Please keep in mind what follows is based on the spending for 2015. Expenses in 2016 in the categories mentioned have almost certainly increased.
The 2015 enrollment in all three of the Gilford schools totaled only 1,207, including the several hundred students sent to our high school by Gilmanton. The total enrollment in the Gilford Schools has been declining fairly steadily for more than a decade.
Personnel costs in the Gilford public schools for administrative positions, rather than for teachers in the classrooms, seem to be out of whack.
Of total personnel costs of $17,327,366 in 2015 (including all benefits and tax contributions made on their behalf, on which they pay no income tax), $2,404,157 was for administrators. In the SAU alone, the superintendent and assistant superintendent cost $151,736 and $141,640, respectively, while six other SAU administrators cost in excess of $100,000 each.
The three school principals cost $118,911, $125,710, and $135,084, respectively, and the two assistant principals cost $122,918 and $115,182, respectively.
In the elementary school, the highest-paid teacher costs $131,055 and the lowest-paid teacher costs $47,352, while a total of seven teachers cost more than $100,000 each. In the middle school, the highest-paid teacher costs $119,444 and the lowest-paid teacher costs $56,650, while a total of six teachers cost more than $100,000 each. In the high school, the highest-paid teacher costs $119,160 and the lowest-paid teacher costs $40,644, while a total of nine teachers, three guidance personnel, and a media services director cost more than $100,000 each.
Ask yourself how these compensation packages compare to your own and to those of your neighbors.
After reviewing this data, some simple questions seem to arise naturally:
1. Why do we need our own School Administrative Unit serving only our town, and what do all of its employees do for our three schools that could not, or should not, rightfully be done by the highly paid principals and assistant principals in our schools? The total cost of the SAU essentially doubles the cost per student in our schools.
2. Do we really need to spend $193,279 in a single year for psychological services from four different professionals ($100,730 to one psychologist alone)? Were the services for the school students or the staff? To the extent that they were for students, whatever happened to the notion of parental responsibility? Do we really have that many students in need of psychological services whose parents are unable to pay and/or who do not have insurance coverage for them?
3. Why do our schools spend over $57,000 in a single year on what appears to be various organizations (often denominated on the vendor list by acronyms or abbreviations) most of which appear to have no apparent direct benefit to the students?
4. Why does the vendor list show numerous multiple entries for the same "vendor" listed in slightly different ways, which serves to conceal the actual totals paid to each "vendor?"
5. Is there anyone watching the expenditures with an eye toward reasonableness and proper stewardship of taxpayer money? If you think that the School Board is watching out for, and trying to eliminate wasteful spending, you are dreaming.
Are you going to believe the intense lines of smoke being blown at the taxpayers by those with vested interests in the huge school expenditures or, as they say, are you going to believe your lying eyes?
Here are some suggestions to consider as possible solutions to the problem of our runaway school costs in Gilford:
A. At the next school Deliberative Session, make sure to attend with your fellow Gilford residents and do not allow the meeting to be hijacked by those connected with the schools who always seem to try to increase the budget. Just vote "no!"
B. At the next town election in March 2017, vote only for candidates for the School Board who will promise to cut costs. That means most incumbents up for re-election should be thrown out of office by the voters.
C. If the proposed school budget is lower than the so-called default budget, you can bet that something is just not right and that those administrators who prepared, and those members of the School Board who approved, the default budget should be fired by the voters of Gilford.
D. Support changes to the laws to allow school vouchers in New Hampshire so that your pro-rata share of the schools' budget travel with the student and so parents can decide where to send their child without financial penalty. Where vouchers have been tried, they have worked.
Keep these facts in mind as you write your check for your taxes, and do not let the passage of time dull your memory of how badly you are being served by the Gilford schools' establishment.