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Every year, Town Meeting comes with some hard decisions. My time on the Waitsfield Select Board has only made this clearer. However, there is one decision on Town Meeting Day that should be easy for everyone. The passing of the Harwood budget this year comes easier than ever, not because of what will happen if we pass it but what will happen if we don’t. A failed Harwood budget will lead to a wholesale cut in middle school extracurricular activities. Sports, jazz band and everything else will be eliminated to cover the $155,000 in extra money the budget requires for other necessary support services.
I already wrote a letter speaking to why this cut would be so catastrophic, so I won’t rehash anything. If you missed that letter, I am sure you can imagine some of the ramifications. I understand some people see school budgets as being sloppy and riddled with wasted money. Let me assure people that this is not true. All schools face tough budget problems this year, due to many increases outside of their control. For the Harwood budget to need only $155,000 more to continue offering all of the services to our students is nothing short of amazing. Plus, I can tell you from a lot of experience that Harwood athletics and extracurricular activities are extremely well run and one of the best values around. That part of the budget benefits so many students for very little money.
From a financial aspect, passing the budget with the extra $155,000 will actually have quite little impact on everyone’s tax bill. If that $155,000 is spread across Fayston, Warren, Waitsfield, Moretown, Duxbury and Waterbury it will equal about $.0001 more per $100 in assessed values in taxes. That means if approved, a person with $300,000 in taxed property will pay 30 cents more in taxes.
Now, I understand completely that every “small” increase adds up when put together with everything else, but I urge anyone in the voting booth to put it into perspective. Let’s think about what that 30 cents is buying us. If you are still unsure if that increase is worth it, I urge you to go find a seventh- or eighth-grader in the Mad River Valley and ask them if it (soccer, cross-country running, field hockey, basketball, Nordic skiing, track, jazz band or the play) is worth your 30 cents. I think you will find out it may be the best thing 30 cents can buy you these days. I myself will show my support for the amazing job Harwood does with extracurricular activities by wearing black and gold at Town Meeting. If you support our middle-schoolers I urge you to do the same.
Cooke lives in Waitsfield.