Letters to the Editor

Accounting Distractions Shouldn’t Blur the Need to Vote NO

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To the Editor,
 
Those supporting the $25 million bond referendum have chosen to create an enormous amount of noise about operating vs. capital budget accounting rather than justify the proposed referendum on its merits.
 
 
This appears to be an unfortunate, yet purposeful distraction, aimed at moving the debate from the real issue at hand: how a finite bucket of property tax revenues should be allocated between paying debt service and funding educational programs.
 
The point that organizations such as Education Focused and others have tried to make is that property tax resources are a scarce commodity; regardless of the applicable accounting conventions. The referendum, if passed, means cash generated from property taxes will be utilized to pay debt service instead of fund programs.  

 
Instead of lambasting Education Focused as being intentionally deceitful, which it has never been, the Board of Education and its lobbying organization, Education Counts, would have done the community at large a better service by justifying the debt issuance on its merits instead of accusing a community group advocating for more transparent long-range planning of scare tactics.
 
It should be emphasized that Education Focused is only advocating a NO vote on Question 2, the bond referendum, due to a number of valid concerns, including the enormous cost of a new Performing Arts Center when less expensive options exist, and the use of prime educational real estate for administrative offices and a paltry number of new classrooms.
 
Education Focused has no issue with what appears to be a reasonable operating budget finally falling within the 2 percent tax levy cap, and encourages those who agree to please Vote Yes on Question 1.
 
However, Question 2 constitutes a highly flawed referendum that addresses only some of the District’s capital needs and blows precious bond issuing authority on highly questionable brick and mortar projects which won’t improve education one iota without additional program funding requiring additional tax increases down the road.  
 
The fact that The Board solicited community input only AFTER the referendum was already baked and revealed to the public does not make Question 2 the product of long-range planning process involving broad based community input. It clearly is not.  
 
Regardless of accounting conventions, a better use of taxpayer funds would be to execute on less expensive renovation options and direct related debt service savings to fund programs the community deems important, whether it be a more robust theater program, full day kindergarten, or reinstituting programs cut during the financial crisis, including world languages at the elementary school level. 
 
As a result, a NO vote on Question 2 is the only logical course of action for voters to take on April 21. I encourage the rejection of this wasteful referendum so we as a community can start over and produce a borrowing program that works for our kids while respecting and minimizing the burden on property taxpayers.
 
Peter Hoffman
 
Chatham Borough

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