Letter: A little sunshine on Concord kindergarten

Concord resident Betty Hoadley submitted this letter to the Concord Monitor: 

Oh, how lucky can we, the Concord taxpayers, be! This is Sunshine Week, the week when newspapers concentrate on the public’s right to know. So here is what we, the public and the Concord taxpayers have a right to know.

Last week the Concord School Board voted to omit the full-day kindergarten budget line from its mandatory posted budget. No reporter was there that night, so the message from the board president was accurate, but brief. The message stated that the budget would increase 4.5 percent without full-day kindergarten and over 6 percent with kindergarten.

Those numbers need clarification and explanation. The 4.5 percent figure is actually 4.57 percent, but that was the state and local education tax combined. If one isolates the local tax (why should Concord get the credit for a lower state tax?), that number would be a 5.75 percent increase. Now the full-day kindergarten cost number would still be over 6 percent as printed, but the real number is 6.69 percent. And that too was a combined state and local tax number. The isolated (just Concord) rate would be 8.27 percent. These numbers are right on the spreadsheets used by the board in their deliberations thus far.

I am sure Concord taxpayers deserve to know the full and real impact that would arrive in tax bills at the turn of this year. And I am sure that Concord taxpayers need to be reminded that Concord’s current tax-exempt real estate property is 27.52 percent and those entities pay no tax, a burden picked up by the non-exempt. And I wonder how many Concord taxpayers know the latest census figures available show Concord with a median household income of $54,182 (the comparable figures for Bow are $105,266 and Allenstown, $52,750).

It is important to share with Concord people that today, March 16, there is a planned “phonathon” evening at 17 Depot St. where volunteers will be calling Concord residents to ask them to show up at one or both school board public hearings. And who is the creator and manager of this effort? None other than the defeated candidate for governor, Colin Van Ostern (and his wife). I wonder who can find out how this event will be funded, who will fund the site, the phone bank and the obligatory snacks.

Van Ostern and another duly elected state official have a history of sending their spouses, friends, neighbors and former campaign workers to urge (and sometimes demand) the board institute full-day kindergarten in Concord.

Every school district is unique in the number and profile of students it serves. Every school district is unique in the community’s ability to pay. Why don’t we in Concord want to know the number of students in Concord who are new Americans, who have conditions along the autism spectrum, who experience learning disabilities or who come from homes that are somehow disadvantaged? Concord has students, many students, in all these categories and it is already serving and supporting their respective needs. The costs are more than significant. They are eye-popping. And if you have a child getting those supports, you are mighty glad you live in Concord or maybe you moved here because you knew it.

The Concord School District has that reputation of caring for all of its students.

Lastly, do the public and parents of students know that the full-day kindergarten cost that went into the early budget would have been partially funded by the re-positioning of five teachers? That means about 511 elementary students across the district would be in classes next year with significantly more students, up to 28 in many cases.

Well, enjoy the sunshine and Sunshine Week as the public has the right to know. But for those who are still torn about the issue herein, know that several board members said that they want to move toward full-day kindergarten, but they feel that with all the other mandatory and some unusual costs (especially the steam conversion problem), this is not the year to do it.

Read the full letter here.