To the Editor

To The Editor:

Please read with an open mind. 

On November 1, 2012 the Calais Advertiser printed 3 articles regarding the AOS. 

Front page- CITY URGES VOTERS TO WITHDRAW FROM AOS 77

●Bernardini-the numbers in the study were based on budget figures and were not actual numbers. “We’re still not sure where all those figures fall”

●Dwelley- “I think we want to see, at a minimum, curriculum stay the same, or even expanded.”

●Bernardini-”There’s a perception that we are going to tear the whole education system apart. But that’s not what we’re doing”

Page 4- TO CALAIS REGISTERED VOTERS

●”The Calais City Council recommends voting “Yes” on the AOS referendum.”

Page 5- Calais Advertiser Editorial

● “If you, the public, do vote to withdraw, stand behind your vote and give the school committee what support you can.”

● “Not only your vote, but your support of the school committee and its budget will be the deciding factor in the success of an independent Calais school district”

I write this because I and many others followed the recommendation from the School Board and City Council, our voted representatives. IN DOING SO, SHOWING THEM THE RESPECT THAT THEY KNOW WHAT’S BEST FOR THIS CITY.

However, in its time of need many have turned their backs on the one thing that makes this City a community, our school! I feel they are taking cover rather than taking responsibility. I FEEL OUR VOTED REPRESENTATIVES ARE NOT SHOWING THEIR CONSTITUENTS THE RESPECT THEY DESERVE. 

I do not want to see any department cut off at the knees. I do not want to see layoffs. I would like to shed light on scary trends I discovered in the little information made public from the City. 

The Police Dept. took a severe cut in 2010 and claims a $125,000 savings. Some say this was a cut to the bone. However, the 2014 budget shows spending higher than in 2008 (before the cuts). We are left with a deboned department with creeping costs due to overtime, wear on the cruisers, and reduced coverage when transporting to Machias.

Public works staffing was drastically reduced and eliminated all part-time staff. While costs are slightly more than 2008 there is a different trend. Costs have remained consistent but quality of service has suffered. My example: They do the best they can but come winter the snow is moved to the sidewalk. Then they clean the sidewalk into the road. The pattern continues all winter and the result is unsafe, icy sidewalks and snow banks that narrow the road. Again they do the best they can but I find it odd that we are forced to walk in the street and risk oncoming vehicles since it is safer than the sidewalks.

I hear calls for the Library, Rec Dept. & Fire Dept. to be cut.... My question is why we are not calling for cuts from those that led us straight into the hornets’ nest. 

Last year we had a special referendum to fund school supplies because there was no money. However, the Council members at the time voted UNANIMOUSLY to give our City Manager a $7,000 raise for a job well done saving money. 

●1st, if we don’t have money to fund the school, how is there money for a raise? Bernardini says we must operate within a balanced budget. 

●2nd, I see no savings or job well done.

The School Board had eliminated a huge liability (our previous Superintendent). The School Board has reduced their budget by about $120, 000. While a budget of $8million is scary, remember that is for 178 employees, 3 times the City’s employees. It includes multiple buildings none of which are efficient.  Our new Superintendent, Dr. Keith Laser, in his first 7 days is up to speed and has proposed to the School Board additional cuts in the neighborhood of $400,000. Everything is on the table. Reduction or elimination of Kindergarten, combining classes, elimination of art & music, eliminating a Title 1 position, restructuring teachers course load, furlough days, reduction or elimination of all sports, bands, and extra curricular activities, and elimination of stipends to coaches. 

I want action not rhetoric. Please don’t blindly cut for the sake of saving money because the previous examples lead me to believe it will cost us so much more in the end. I foresee us in the same desperate spot in the near future. We need a plan, not anger and stubbornness.

I will not ask anyone to vote a certain way. However, I will explain how I am going to vote if a referendum is scheduled. I will vote against any referendum that destroys any department. I will vote against any referendum that is made without short/long term goals to prevent future financial shortfalls. I will vote against any referendum that does not result in Calais restructuring for efficiency rather than blind cuts. I will vote over and over to force this issue back in the laps of those who led us here and are responsible to lead us out. 

These are only my opinions. They will not balance the budget. But think of this. If we put in the same amount of effort to find solutions as we are to fighting... imagine the possibility.

Matthew O’Rourke