Tuesday February 5, 2013

On the Archery Building's future

Editor of the Reformer:

I read an article from the Friday Reformer (Feb. 1) that the folks who planned to use the Archery Building had backed out. It also indicated that the town had to figure out what to do with it now.

My suggestion is: demolish it. I feel that way when I look out the east window of the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, noticing what the town has done to open the green space and parking area towards the river. I once asked someone there, "What's that eyesore that blocks the view to the river bank and the New Hampshire shore below Wantastiquet?" She said, "It's a historic building." To me, it's foolish reasoning that it could be restored with "big bucks," because it would still ruin the view of a naturally historical landscape.

Ken Heile,

Guilford, Feb. 4

Headline does not tell the whole story

Editor of the Reformer:

The word "slams" in the Reformer's headline Monday morning regarding the Brattleboro Finance Committee's report on the BUHS District proposed budget does a disservice I think to both the BUHS School District and the Brattleboro Town Finance Committee. A disservice to the School District because they've worked hard to contain costs in a difficult budget year. A disservice to the Finance Committee because it sensationalizes our findings and opinions and takes them out of context. But headlines are meant to grab attention and this one probably did.

While the final report and cover page were a group effort, I was the primary author of the initial drafts and associated charts and did much of the research leading to them. The bottom line statement that "IN THE CONTEXT OF THE TOWN OF BRATTLEBORO'S OVERALL PICTURE [capitalization added], we strongly recommend a level funded budget" may be the attention grabber. But the surroundings - the eight points of the summary, the threeplus pages of text, the charts - are just as, if not more, important. They are meant to educate voters in town because we feel that the school budgets have never been effectively enough put into the larger context of overall town finances.

The fact that there's very little to no growth in the town's Grand List is something voters need to be aware of. The percentage of overall property taxes that goes to the schools is something voters need to be aware of. The other major expenses that the town is facing need to be part of the context. That the BUHS District is one of the very highest cost districts in the state is something that needs to be stated.

I believe anyone taking the time to read the three-plus pages of the report will see that our committee also has tried to be fair. We recognize the good steps the school district has taken to manage costs while still ensuring quality, and include predictions from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns that most other school districts in the state will be seeing costs go up by a higher percentage than the BUHS District. And the Finance Committee also recognizes and states that a quality education system is important to economic development.

The committee members are not under any delusion that we are the deciders on these matters. It is in fact the voters who have, via their prior year budget and bond votes, supported the district in reaching the point it now has. The service the Finance Committee is trying hard to provide is to get the relevant information out there and to put it all in context.

I know I personally cringed at reading "Finance Committee slams HS budget." But I do hope all Brattleboro voters read the report and as many as possible attend the Feb. 12 BUHS District meeting.

Michael Bosworth,

Brattleboro, Feb. 4