To The Daily Sun,
I am writing to correct a number of inaccuracies contained in the article headlined "Laconia tax cap makes budgeting for school district difficult," which ran in the Tuesday, Jan. 12, edition. I agreed to be interviewed for this article under the understanding that it would clarify any misperceptions created by the quotes attributed to me in an article that ran in the Jan. 6 edition of The Laconia Daily Sun, which I had asked to be corrected. I had hoped to avoid having to write a letter to editor but, unfortunately, the inaccuracies in the Jan. 12 article make this unavoidable.
First, the article makes it appear that I met with a reporter to bash the City Council, which was not the case. I disagreed with the council's decision to cut the school budget last year and the year before and believe that it was not a prudent decision given the tax cap, the fact that a flat CPI was projected, and the future implications of these cuts. The prior year's cuts will make it more difficult for the district during this budget process and will make it more difficult moving forward. However, I also made it clear that the district would be facing difficult budget decisions regardless of the council's decision.
Second, it was stated that I applied a theory brought forth by the Columbia Business School regarding Massachusetts' Prop 2 1/2. This is not accurate. I did mention a Columbia Business School article that studied the impacts of the Prop 2 1/2 tax cap. However, I did so simply to point out that this study concluded that cities and towns that were able to increase school spending despite their tax cap limitations had proportional increases in property values and that non-school spending had little impact on property values in cities and towns under the Prop 2 1/2 tax cap.
Third, it was stated that I said that the Columbia Business School study said that many Massachusetts families pay user fees. This is inaccurate. I have done a fair amount of research on the issue of user fees for extracurricular activities and noted that Massachusetts, which operates under the Prop 2 1/2 tax cap, has a large percentage of districts that charge fees for student activities such as sports, drama and clubs. However, I did not cite the Columbia study as a source regarding the reliance on user fees.
As this is the case, I felt that Laconia should be exploring this possibility. I also noted that we have a large percentage of our students who could not afford user fees and, were such fees instituted, it was my feeling that they would need to be waived for these students.
Finally, it was stated that I said that "the district has no idea where all these clubs come from, except for donations made through the United Way and the Children's Auction." This is completely inaccurate.
What I said was that I have been involved with both United Way and the Children's Auction and the cooperative funding model used by each is very effective, as it relieves the "charitable fatigue" on donors who are being bombarded with requests for donations and ensures that funds are given to groups who really need them. Currently, we have multiple school-related groups conducting fundraising activities and, although these activities are approved and overseen at the building level, there is no mechanism in place at a district level to determine how much is raised or whether the uses of the funds raised are the best uses for the limited charitable funds available to district-related organizations.
Accordingly, it was my feeling that the district should explore moving to a cooperative funding model where all funds go to a district "student activity fund" from which funds would be distributed to organizations in response to funding requests in a manner similar to those used by United Way and the Children's Auction.
In closing, I have had a long and cordial relationship with The Sun and hope that the last two articles in which I was quoted are the exception and not what is to be expected as the norm in the future.
- Category: Letters
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