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Our Schools and the Truth About Senior Tax Relief

As long as SPS committee members use their position of influence to help elect ideologically pure candidates to various town offices, our schools will suffer.

The town school committees flexed their muscle in last week's election with a last-minute email campaigns touting the subject line “Our Schools and the Truth About Senior Tax Relief.” The email, authored by Sudbury School Committee member Lisa Gutch, said:

“To protect our schools, we must vote to re-elect Larry O'Brien.”

The emailed continued with:

“Based on what he has written and spoken, Mr. DePompei, if elected, will advocate for budgeting that would create a significant negative impact on our schools …”

On Mr. DePompei’s Senior Tax Relief proposal, the email concludes:

“He failed to mention that his proposal, if enacted, would be a direct hit to the School and Town budgets.”

The issue I have with this committee member's approach, besides accuracy of the claims, is that while fear mongering of parents may drive turnout, it also ultimately pushes other voting blocks against you. As a school committee official, she needs all the votes she can to get budgets passed. Remember last year's failed override?

Unfortunately, as we keep seeing, while the town Democratic Party can pack Lavenders and Town Meeting, they have trouble turning out voters for passing an override. 

Until the school committee's start to embrace a more diverse representation of the town on their committees while also taking a longer term view about their actions during elections, forming a town wide coalition for school support will continue to be difficult. 

Susan Iuliano’s posting last week about how difficult it is to get candidates to run was especially enlightening in this respect. I would argue her problem is not getting candidates to run, her problem is finding candidates with the same ideological orientation as the current board. Plenty of candidates have run for office, they just don’t agree with the current committee’s lack of progress on consolidation and giving administrators raises during tough economic times.

As long as SPS committee members use their position of influence to help elect ideologically pure candidates to various town offices, they will prevent the formation of a town wide coalition for school support. Their actions drive a wedge into the town electorate. Their ideology blinds them from seeing the damage they are doing to their own cause.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Sudburytoo April 03, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Well said Bryan. It is extremely short sighted to try to scare everyone into overrides year after year. Mr. DePompei is a well respected man of integrity and to have people sending e-mails that are not accurate and mean spirited is an indication of just how dirty our local politics are. Once again, good luck with that override now that you have alienated half the town. What a well run town.
Casual Observer April 03, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Well said Bryan, according to this school committee the prevailing issue is the approval of overrides which they have failed to deliver since 2007, but let's stay the course!
Enuff April 03, 2012 at 04:44 PM
You have to love Sudbury. Neighbor against neighbor. Using the kids and schools as the threat year after year. So now we will have a town meeting packed with override supporters, Myron will shut down anyone who has anything to say against an override. It will pass town meeting with no problem and then we will have a special election which costs us more money only to have the override fail easily. Attacking your neighbors every year is not helping your cause. How many failed overrides do we need before someone gets the message.
x April 03, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Liberals feel; conservatives think. Reverend E. Raleigh Pimperton III
Thrice Rusty April 03, 2012 at 08:10 PM
We as a town have nobody to blame but ourselves. If we keep electing the Jack Ryan's and Lisa Gutch's of the world then we get what we deserve. Sudbury should send a message next year and send Gutch packing. I for one know I don't want her making decisions that effect my children. Do you?
sudburyguy April 04, 2012 at 06:32 PM
But you have not made the case that it would have a direct effect on the schools if it encouraged older folks to stay in town. That is unassaillable logic because they do not use the schools and if they stay they are not replaced by parents with multiple kids who will use the schools and whose taxes will not cover all of the services they use. The fianancial model of replacing fleeing elderly with school aged kids is what is breaking the bank. We need to stablize the growth of the consumers of the schools or have overrides annually. That maybe be what Lisa wants. But we have seen those overrides drive out the elderly and that is what has the "direct hit" on the schools. So either Lisa doesn't want to "cover" the costs of some elderly who stay in town or she wants to drive them out and have annual overrides. Or, more likely she hasn't really thought about this deeply enough to see the implications and is just supporting Larry because he's on the same team. How sad and how shallow is that?
Alison April 04, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Lisa Gutch is a well respected woman with a great deal of integrity who just happens to disagree with you. Her argument was well thought out and rational and she had the right to make it and share it with her friends. Obviously, If Dan thought that his approach to senior tax cuts would have a broad appeal in town he would have sent out his flier town wide rather than just to senior citizens. Somehow everyone that disagrees with sudburyguy, LOBTTG, Enuff etc. are bad, unethical people. The nasty, frantic discourse on this site is painful and I am sure lost Dan many votes.
Robert Fucci (Editor) April 04, 2012 at 10:48 PM
I've had to take down a few comments that were borderline libelous and were personal attacks. I've made it know in the past how I feel about abusing the comments section. If you want to comment please stick to the issues without crossing the line.
JON999 April 05, 2012 at 01:03 AM
Bryan makes a sound case but the issue of senior tax relief/impact on schools is probably more complex than would seem. Probably not fair to Ms. Gutch to indict her without more information and her side of the story. In any case, I believe a Special Cmte is being formed to review.
Pat Brown April 06, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Actually, the Special Committee is being formed to review H.3435: the House Bill for Senior Tax Relief in Sudbury based upon Article 2 passed at Sudbury Special Town Meeting in January of 2011. H.3435 is the enabling legislation required for the proposed changes put forth in Article 2. I infer from the Selectmen's announcement that the committee would look at the implementation details of this proposal. http://www.town.sudbury.ma.us/departments/BoardOfSelectmen/news3777/ The proposed alternative was doubling the senior circuit breaker property tax credit by providing a town match, which has the advantage of not requiring enabling legislation. Wayland adopted such a provision in 2001. The Special Committee will not consider a provision like Wayland's; its implementation is straightforward. In any event, I'd like to see the basis upon which senior property tax relief "would be a direct hit to school and town budgets." I hope further details are forthcoming.
concerned2 June 07, 2012 at 01:35 PM
Yes, we need to keep seniors in town but we also need to realize that in these economic times overrides are going to be necessary to keep the schools just status quo. If you read Scott Carpenter's presentation to the town mtg from early May, it is absolutely frightening. I certainly don't want my kids having to endure class sizes of 38! Something has to be done, and NOW. If not, everyone will begin to leave town in droves for better school values. And this, in turn, will affect everyone's property values. We must find a solution. Otherwise, schools here are just resting on their laurels from the past.
2Labs June 07, 2012 at 02:48 PM
If we are truly debating whether to "keep seniors in this town", then we need to look at ourselves. Fair taxes are a separate and perhaps conflicting agenda with any ire toward seniors in this town. Fairness is something everyone agrees on, and fairness doesnt always mean a 50/50 split. However, we as the middle agers cannot sacrifice our elderly to feed our young. The equation is uncivilized. We as a community need to watch over both. Separate the issues. I wish some moral authority, such as someone from the clergy, or the AARP would address this timeless issue and keep us from losing our integrity to our anger as we crunch difficult numbers. After hearing that several senior teachers are being pushed out of our schools, I see a very ugly pattern emerging. I hope it is cleaned up before the kids see it, because if they accept it as our culture, then in a few years they will be debating, "should we keep seniors in this town? " And the seniors will be US.
Kirsten Vandijk June 07, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Concerned2, As I approach my 50th birthday I can look back to my educational experience and see one clear fact--class sizes then were in the 35-40 range and it was never a concern for us students who sat in alphabetical order in rows without necessitating assistant teachers. Discipline is, I believe, the difference between today's students and those of another generation. Classrooms were all the same and the same level of responsible behaviour was expected of every student. I am honestly surprised at what I am told happens and often goes ignored in the schools' classrooms. I studied history in the same hallowed halls that Robert Frost taught in and the less than up to the minute latest in technology was non-existent yet I and the majority of the other students managed to graduate and many with honors. I realize that I am not typical of my peer group when I do not believe that small class size creates better students. I believe a well disciplined-at-home child that brings his /her respectful attitude to the classroom will not need such a small student/teacher ratio to succeed. His or her disciplined and respectful approach will make a wonderful addition to a classroom, no matter what the size. Without the need to keep students 'in line" and "behaving" the teacher can systematically do what he or she is paid to do--teach. Not baby sit or correct inappropriate behaviour but TEACH. And the teacher can do it without a laptop and with a crayon! I'll be quiet now.

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