Each week, Camden Herald staff asks people on the street a question. This week, we asked what people would do with an unexpected cash windfall and while the answers received were not entirely surprising, the answers did make us a little sad.
We'd hoped to hear that people would plan a vacation after putting it off for years due to the poor economy or other fun — maybe frivolous even — ideas. Instead, we were struck by the similar answers: pay off bills/mortgage/debt. It speaks to the position people are in that they immediately, and almost reflexively, want to sensibly and carefully make use of unexpected funds. Long gone, it seems, are the days of “You've just [fill in the blank], now what are you going to do? I'm going to Disney!” So many people are struggling just to keep their jobs, a roof over their heads and food on the table. Many are a car accident or health issue away from going over their own financial cliff and as we come into budget season for most municipalities, towns will likely tighten the belt as well.
Education is one of the first areas to be hit with funding cuts at the state and local level. For years, our schools have struggled to keep “zero increase” budgets in place while still providing a quality education. At some point, facilities will need attention and families already strapped for cash will not be able to afford property tax increases or additional money to send children to school. As it is, parents already are shelling out money for some school supplies, lunch and/or breakfast, as well as seemingly endless fundraisers in addition to the usual outlay of cash for school clothes, shoes and outerwear. Many teachers purchase schoolroom supplies out of pocket as well.
Schools can't continue to count on parents, grandparents and teachers to close the funding gap by providing school supplies. Nor can towns continue to demand that schools maintain current levels of service and quality without expecting an increase in the bottom line.
This year, as in years past, budget committees will be faced with increasingly tough choices regarding educational and municipal services. Many citizens will decry the loss of public services if they are cut but most are not able to find any wiggle room in municipal budgets to keep services without raising taxes.
Nice to see
During Camden's select board meeting last week, it was nice to see four candidates interested and enthusiastic about potentially joining the school board. It's not often that number of potential candidates step forward.
While we understand the urgency to appoint a new school board member before more budget meetings take place, it seemed more than one selectman also would have liked more time to consider the applicants' statements. Each candidate had valid and varied ideas that deserve further consideration.
We hope people will learn from their example when it comes time for another election.