Please vote for fiscal responsibility regarding Hollis Brookline Co-op budget

To the Editor:

The 2014 Hollis Brookline Cooperative School District meeting on March 3 will have warrant articles that seek to increase the total budget of the co-op by $868,450 for next year.

This increase is on top of the current $20.5 million co-op budget. In addition, the School Board seeks authorization from the district to borrow $5,500,000 for a 20-year bond to expand the high school building, with six new classrooms and a larger cafeteria, upgrade the network infrastructure, and build an expensive artificial turf athletic facility. This proposal does not seem reasonable given the following facts.

First, why are we adding space and facilities when the student enrollment has been and is expect to continue declining? The district had 1,376 students in 2010 and we are now at 1,252 students. In two years, the population will be down to 1,141, and by the year 2020, we are projected to have 1,045 students.

Second, the 40 percent state building aid for co-op construction projects is currently on hold due to the economy. This is not the time to take on a project and pay 100 percent.

Third, while the co-op athletic fields could use some improvements, a multi-million athletic field complex is not the responsible answer.

Fourth, the School Board has not quantified the increased operational costs associated with a larger high school building and additional athletic fields.

Fifth, the bond is structured to have smaller costs the first three years, $163,000, $250,000 and $250.000 respectively, but rise to $450,000 in future years.

The taxpayers cannot afford these types of unsustainable increases. Since the School Board is not taking action to control costs, citizen petitions have been put on the warrant and citizens have developed the website http://sau41.com.

Article 14 compels the Budget Committee to explicitly state the estimated tax rate impact for each article on the warrant – clarity that is much needed. Article 15 seeks to reject the costly implementation of Common Core in the district and develop our own higher standards with the free assistance of renowned curriculum experts, professor Sandra Stotsky and James Milgram. Article 16 seeks to restore apportionment back to the balanced 50/50 formula used when the co-op was originally founded. Lastly, Article 17 seeks a 2.5 percent tax cap on future budgets proposed by the Budget Committee.

Please come and vote March 3 to bring current and future spending back on a sustainable trajectory.

ERIC PAUER

Brookline