The time has come for all the towns under contract with RSU 20, based in Belfast, to rise up and stand united against the repressive 2013-14 school budget. The number of tax liens sent out in your town this year, and the year before, compared to those prior to this partnership should be evidence enough to make anyone realize that we were corralled into a stable with those who would trample us under the hoof. Further, we joined into alliance with a city that cares little how it finances its dreams and schemes of being the nation’s finest public education facility.
During the first round of budget meetings, the smaller towns advised the school board of their financial situations. Stockton Springs Town Manager Rich Couch presented evidence to show that our town would not be able to keep up if our $136,000-a-month payment was increased to the point proposed. Superintendent Brian Carpenter and the elected school board heard that evidence and went back to the drawing board and prepared a budget that still resulted in an increase.
On May 30, a group of Belfast residents and school employees amassed at the budget meeting and voted all the increases that affected their schools back into the proposed budget. In an emotional display of demagoguery, citing the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and demanding that we pass the increases and then march on Augusta, Belfast speakers and the small children of Belfast residents pleaded with their peers to vote in their favor. They, of course, were preaching to the choir. When your own child rises to tell you how much she loves art, you’re not likely to vote against her. The residents were completely aware of the fact that they held a majority in the room, and it was over before it began. The rest of the night was show.
Appalling as this situation is, it is more so when you compound it with the fact that Belfast presents itself as a hotbed for liberal belief. The city is always on the front page protesting the unfair treatment of low-income families in other states by the wealthy elite.
On the local level, is the city of Belfast not the wealthiest of the group? Does your town have a swimming pool in its school? Does your school offer a four-year music program, so your children might attend the 2-percenters’ Ivy League schools? Does your school have high school football and yet lament the possible loss of middle-school sports? Can your town afford a recreation director this year? Stockton Springs cannot. We had to cut it from the budget, so Belfast can prepare its students of athletic greatness once they reach the upper grades. At least, that was the reasoning offered on May 30.
We brought our concerns to the school board, and they heard us. And then, a group of liberal thinkers forced the cuts back in by mob rule. Then, they had the audacity to brag about how the democratic process had worked. In the first place, democratic process does not include taxation without representation. The Department of Education’s Guide to Administrators, Superintendents and School Board members clearly points out that school board directors, elected by the separate towns, represent the children of the district. This is how it should be, and that should never change. But they do not represent the taxpayers. You do. Second, the democratic process will be held in your separate town halls on Tuesday, June 11.
Stop the 2 percent. Make the wealthiest among us, the most liberal among us, practice what they preach. On June 11, go to your town hall and vote down this budget that is sure to bankrupt one of us. United we stand. We are the true 98 percent. Add your voice to mine. Ask your neighbor to do the same. You do have the power, if you choose to use it.
Jeff Davis of Stockton Springs is a retired electrician and the author of two novels, “Hardscrabble Hill” and “Gwendoline.”