On The Budget: An Editorial

by Nick Bernold

The situation is dire. It may be that not everyone realizes the
situation is such. Maybe some don’t feel implicated by the storm that
is brewing. I dearly hope that it is the former. The Dresden School
Board is considering cuts of epic proportions across the board to
counter the unfortunate combination of a sluggish economy with the
expiration of a financial agreement with Dartmouth. After this year
the college will no longer contribute the half a million dollars it
had annually contributed to the Hanover High coffers. It follows that
even with a zero percent net spending increase taxpayers will be faced
with a five hundred thousand dollar deficit for the 2011-’12 school

Additionally, members of the community have argued that with
wage freezes and people losing jobs around the Upper Valley (at
Dartmouth, DHMC, Teleatlas) taxes should in fact decrease. This is the
crux of the problem, one that everyone agrees. The solutions, however,
vary greatly with a bitter battle and difficult decision ahead.
       Proposed cuts are draconian. They are not trimming the fat but
slashing the sinew, shattering the bones of our school. Proposals on
the table include requiring that students take no more than five
classes, no more than one language, or cutting a substantial amount of
elective courses all together. To anyone who has spent time at HHS
these proposals sound farcical. Indeed, what has allowed us such a
positive reputation throughout New Hampshire an the college admissions
circuit is the very fact that we offer so many different courses in
various levels and subjects. To sever these essential programs will
not only drastically affect school life in the immediate for us, the
current students, but more seriously, will leave a much less complete
and, lets say it, worse school for future classes.
        In light of these proposals one would expect an overwhelming
reaction. A tidal wave of rebuke swelling through the community and
breaking upon the School Board meetings. It seems not to be the case.
Crushing proposition after crushing proposition is laid out for
serious consideration. In the goal of cutting ten to twenty classes
the school is on the brink of undoing years of improvement, and
possibly dealing a blow from which the school will struggle for years
to recover from. With a goal of cutting $400,000 we are only getting
started. Wayne Gersen, the SAU 70 Superintendent, cites the possibility
of a double dip recession as incentive to cut. Whether or not this
actually happens, leading economists have suggested that the job market
might not be reinvigorated by 2013. I have a difficult time imagining
taxpayers jumping to raise taxes again in the near future just to get
back to the level of funding we are at currently. More likely, the
push to reduce spending will continue regardless of whether the budget
is cut this year or not.
       Now on to solutions, of which there are two. The first is to not make
the cuts. We could override the voices of opposition and renew the
current budget. This obviously seems to be the consensus pick among
staff and students. The second possibility is to make cuts. It seems
that a very vocal portion of the community is behind them, and so they
seem, at least to some extend unavoidable. How big and intelligent
those cuts are will become the legacy of the budget dispute of 2010.
To the supporters of drastic cuts I offer a two-fold appeal. Firstly a
monetary one: The cuts would save each household about $200-$300
according to the number of taxpayers given to be at the town hall.Two
hundred dollars is a sum easily frittered away on little knickknacks
over the course of the year. Could you not spare it for the education
of the town’s children? This brings me to my second point: a purely
emotional one. Would it not be ironic and sad for a town so directly
and inextricably tied to education to become the one who savaged the
curriculum of the children it has bred? We in the Upper Valley always
portray ourselves as a close knit community which values neighbors and
mutual help. Would it then be presumptuous or outrageous to ask for
some aid? Even without any vested in interest in our school system,
wouldn’t one want to pitch in for his neighbors and the kids from up
the street? We ask you voters, before you go to the ballot box, to
remember all who hinge on your vote. If, in good conscience you feel
that your financial straits are such that the current budget is
untenable for you, then by all means. But if there is but the smallest
doubt, the most insignificant frivolity that comes to mind which you
could dispense of, that would allow you to contribute to keeping your
neighbors’ children in the best school in the state  please consider
your vote.
       We finally move to worst case scenario. If the concerns are heard and
the largest proposed cut objective is approved we must then mitigate
the damage to the HHS curriculum as much as possible. I took a look a
the 2010-’11 budget and thought it opportune to share a few numbers.
-Total instructional salaries: $3,876,877
-Copier Expenses: $50,000
-Art supplies: $17,440
-HHS substitutes: $28,500
-Awards: $4,910
-Guidance Textbooks: $2,295
-Postage: $12,400
-Field trips: $19,650
       The first number is the one we want to protect. Many other items,
like the ones listed below seem reducible. For example, we can
envision shifting more towards e-mail  and the internet to reduce
postage and copier costs. The goal in navigating these cuts is to
leave the student experience as intact as possible. If one takes a
close look at the budget it seems clear that we could trim spending
with minimal teacher cuts or course reduction.
       Clearly, the proposals above can be debated. In fact they must. It is
of utmost importance that we do (all are encouraged to request a
budget, they are readily available). I believe that the majority of
taxpayers are against these measures, at least in their most drastic
form. Unfortunately, so far they have been a silent one. This is not a
habitual call to democratic involvement, this is an the ringing of an
alarm. This is the fate of the future: A future that may be very
different in a short while.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>