Letter: School budget increases must end in Pittsfield

School budget increases must end in Pittsfield

To the editor:

In reading the recent Eagle headline, it is clear the Pittsfield School Committee continues to ignore fiscal responsibility and the impact on the taxpayer by unanimously approving the new school budget.

Scott Eldridge's perception that this is an income problem, not a "spending problem," couldn't be farther from the truth. With a shrinking taxpayer base, school committees all over the state are faced with the reality that you can no longer do business as usual and you must pool resources and reduce administrative costs, as the Adams-Cheshire school district has painfully but realistically determined.

The budget is now at $60 million and we have at least five people within the school district who make over $100,000. The superintendent makes approximately $157,000 a year managing a $60 million budget, but the mayor, who manages a budget twice that size with more employees, has a salary of under $100,000.

In response to Dan Elias's argument for paying $73,000 a year for what is basically a truant officer position, getting kids to school is the responsibility of the parents and is the law in Massachusetts. In my view, this position is wildly overpaid for that responsibility.

I work for one of the largest employers in Berkshire County and there were years when we got no salary raises, but the school budgets continued to rise anyway because of rising costs that are passed on to the taxpayer. Every time the City Council or citizens try to push back and rein in this spending mind-set, cuts are made in sports, music, arts, and after-school activities that inflame the parents and put pressure on to reinstate these reductions.

Jake McCandless, by all accounts an outstanding superintendent, can show all the slides he wants about the average wages in the state and how we are below them, but that is irrelevant. We live in Berkshire County, and if you think you can get a better job near Boston because the salaries are higher, I urge you to seek that job.

I challenge the City Council, and in particular my Ward 3 Councilor Nicholas Caccamo, to review this budget and make cuts that do not remove teachers from the classroom, but pare down exorbitant salaries and outside services, and do not add positions funded by grants unless there is a planned revenue stream to support them.

I bought my house in 2007 and my taxes have gone up 35 percent in 10 years, and the school budget is the main driver. It is time to look at providing a quality education based on the taxpayer's ability to pay, and not just keep passing along annual increases without concern about the impact to the community.

Carmen Simonelli, Pittsfield


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