We understand the outrage and frustration of the recent revelations born of the Waterville property revaluation. That said, we are very concerned with current efforts and demands to significantly reduce the city and school budget. It should be noted that the budget as originally approved reflected the removal of a number of important items. We realize that this provides little comfort to those whose property values jumped considerably and whose property tax bills will consequently rise by a sizeable percentage (including several who are signing this letter).

On the school budget side, there is simply nowhere to cut, except to begin cutting teachers.

The Waterville school administration and Board of Education have worked hard in recent years to keep a lean, tight budget. Hard choices have already been made. In the budget that was approved for 2016-17, for instance, a science teacher position was eliminated at the high school, along with other significant cuts.

Waterville has the lowest per pupil cost of any school system in the area. According to the most recent available data (from 2014-15), Waterville’s per pupil cost was $10,391. In that school year, Regional School Unit 18 in Oakland had a per pupil cost of $11,132. RSU 49 in Fairfield was at $11,045, Winslow at $11,410, and Augusta at $11,253. All schools in the area were lower than the state average of $12,551. The schools have already been hit hard. There are classes in which students are not able to bring textbooks home, since there are not enough for everyone. Supply budgets are limited, with many teachers providing their own supplies.

Yet, under these trying conditions, excellence is still at the forefront. Teachers go above and beyond, parents chip in, and good things are happening.

It’s hard to imagine, though, that excellence will continue with the draconian cuts that would come of a significant reduction to the school budget—with the laying off of teachers and the harm to morale overall.

We understand the anger and frustration, but a different solution must be found.

Sara Sylvester, Susan Reisert, Joan Phillips-Sandy, Tiffany LaLiberty, Elizabeth Bickford and Pamela Trinward are member of the Waterville Board of Education.

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