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Joan Tabachnick and Jane Fleishman: Back override

To the editor:

We are writing in support of the Northampton override. Like most of our friends, we are not overly enthusiastic about having higher bills to pay.

We are at a point in our lives where we are both sending our children through college and taking care of our parents. While fortunate to have work and a home, we don’t have regular salaries and certain income. Nevertheless, we support the override because we believe that paying our share of local taxes — even if that share goes up an average of $235 a year — is not only our duty, but our responsibility.

We believe that we, as citizens and taxpayers of Northampton, are responsible for providing our children with a safe community and excellent educational opportunities. We believe it is our responsibility to protect the salaries of 11 teachers and 4 police officers and help our city in its efforts to resolve the structural budgetary problems it faces.

We know that Massachusetts’ system for funding our cities and towns is broken and needs a major overhaul on the state and federal levels. But that fix will take a longer time. At this critical juncture, passage of the override, which provides for a stabilization fund, will give the city and its schools financial security and stability for at least the next four years. Please join us: make it your responsibility to vote yes on June 25.

Joan Tabachnick and Jane Fleishman


Legacy Comments9

All excellent, valid points, Theresa.

This is about our kids first. Having 30 kids in an elementary class is bad. It affects the future of Northampton, our property values, and our community. We also lose site of the fact that our overall tax burden is ridiculously low compared to other countries, and our property tax burden is on the low side as well. How is Northampton supposed to support itself? We need the override.

Your right, this is about kids first. Where do you think these children live at the school? Do you think the school is the sole provider for these children? No, their parent or parents are; this should be first and foremost in consideration. Comparing Northampton's tax burden to other countries is "ridiculous". You want to know how Northampton is supposed to support itself, I will tell you; stop the "ridiculous" and irresponsible spending as stated below in an earlier reply. Along with those, challenge the charter and school of choice which drain our budget. Have Smith College's tax exemption status re-assessed. Any city counsel member receiving health benefits compliments of the Northampton tax payer needs to stop. Work within a budget, when positions retire re-allocate slots, re-evaluate job descriptions. Before you ask the residents of Northampton to step up, perhaps the Mayor needs to step up first.

Below are just a few examples to capture the magnitude of what our school system once had and has already lost: -elimination of elementary school foreign language teaching; -elimination of all librarians at elementary school level; down to 1/2 time librarian at middle school, down to 1 librarian instead of recommended 2 at high school level; -elimination of instrumental music at elementary school level; -reduction of physical education at all levels; -total elimination of supplies budget at elementary school level; massive cuts to supplies at middle and high schools -reduction of technology budget at all levels; -loss of full time teachers in history, science, world language and loss of half-time teachers in English and reading at the middle school level; -loss of teachers across every level of the school system (to the total of 37 teachers since FY2002), resulting in educational losses at every point in the system There is literally nothing left to cut without cutting away at the very definition of a quality education. The override is the only alternative right now to preserving what we value. Without the override, budget cuts will occur across the entire school system, impacting students at all levels. Budget cuts would require the loss of 11 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) staff positions in the school system. These losses would result in: -the reduction of physical education at the elementary level; -the elimination of a music teacher and reduction of an art teacher at the middle school, preventing middle school students from having the opportunity for art and music for all 3 years at the school; -significant reduction in art, music, theater, and consumer science teaching positions at the high school, resulting in the potential loss of marching band, choral programs, theater productions and more; -the reduction of special education, school psychological services, speech assistance and other supportive services at every school level; -the reduction in textbooks and school supplies, as well as professional development for teacher training at all levels. Additionally, budget cuts would require the elimination of school busing at the high school level, requiring 9th through 12th graders to find their own way to school and the JFK pool would be closed to the public on the weekends due to the loss in custodial staff. Still more, to help close the budget gap, sports fees at the high school would increase from $150 to $175 per sport. As a community we simply can't afford these cuts. Please, please, please Theresa, (and everyone) I beg you to go read the facts at yesnorthampton.org.

Their are two sides to every coin. Perhaps you should sit down and speak to the people who will lose their jobs if the override doesn't pass. You should sit down and speak to the 39 teachers who have been lost over the last few years. You should speak to the students who would like to become young musicians but their parents aren't fortunate enough to afford private lessons and public school is their last chance. Yes, you are right, Theresa, the city will survive without this override, but there are families of teachers and policemen who won't because they are losing their jobs. On second thought, I think this may be a good thing! When they all lose their jobs and move out of the city because they can't find work, and when the schools suffer insurmountable cuts to staff and families begin to move away for better educational opportunities, your property values will PLUNGE, thereby saving you LOTS of tax money! Win-win, right Theresa?

All these scare tactics are such a load of garbage. We have the money in our city budget to fund little pet projects like a boathouse, extra ball fields, and a roundabout at the end of Hatfield Street (which is so unnecessary, especially considering the mile long traffic that is backed up daily right down the street on Damon Rd...) - yet you are going to play the "poor city employees" card. Perhaps city employees should stop blaming the tax payers and start putting the blame where it truly lies; the past and present administration. Who is making up for the tax dollars that were just lost by the destruction of city businesses and an entire community by Smith College?? I will not be bullied into voting for an override. Scare tactics do not bother me. And what makes you so sure I haven't spoken to city employees about this? You would be surprised how many DO see the wasteful spending, and will not be voting for the override.

Theresa - you have the same misconceptions as a lot of people. No amount of spending in the areas you mentioned would come close to erasing the budget gap caused by cuts in state aid (alongside the continual rising costs). We cannot nitpick our way out of this mess when we have lost almost 40 teachers and over $35 MILLION dollars in state aid over the last 10 years. My guess is that things like the boathouse have nothing to do with the general fund and therefore have absolutely zero impact on this discussion. The bottom line: we have lost tens of millions of dollars in state aid. Despite our draconian cuts to education, we cannot maintain BASIC services without this override. It is the only remaining source of income right now. Furthermore, our current Mayor has done a fantastic job at attacking this problem by saving the city over ONE MILLION dollars in health care premiums for city employees, so give the man his due. I'll just close by saying that there are many city expenditures that I disagree with as well, and that is a debate for adults in an adult setting. This override directly impacts the education of the children of our city. To put the yoke of cut after cut after cut after cut on them and make them bear the brunt of this perpetual downward-spiral is nothing but spiteful and short-sighted. You clearly have anger issues with the city management and you are looking for someone to tie to the whipping post. Don't make it the children of this city.

I HAVE children in this city. You clearly have the means to keep on paying, and paying and paying higher taxes. You just don't get it, and people like you never will. And you are right, I do have issues with this administration, and the past administration. And this is exactly why. There is money available. You just said it yourself. This override is simply a bandaid, and as long as we keep on applying that bandaid, the budget issues in this city will never be solved. If we keep paying, the state will never be held accountable for their actions. Quit playing the "for the children" card. It's old. Take a good long look at how much land Smith College owns. Then look at what they pay in taxes. The lack of revenue in this city is due to the low amount of taxable properties compared to the amount of land. It's about time that school pays their fair share!

You are both indeed fortunate to be able to afford to make the choice to support the proposed override. But sadly, there are many who live in Northampton that cannot survive under another tax increase. The city will survive without this override; but these people won't. I am curious what you say to them? They work just as hard and for many harder than you in order to sustain the ever increasing cost of living in Northampton. If this override goes through it will be those who cannot afford it who will make the ultimate sacrifice of their livelihood. You say it is the residents responsibility to protect the salaries of 11 teachers and 4 police officers; residents are already paying their fair share of the tax burden which increases every year. Before you support this override, perhaps you need to sit down and speak with some who doesn't, not because they don't want to, but because they cannot afford to.

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