With cuts in state revenue sharing and school funding, local taxpayers could be left holding the check after town and school budgets are finalized this year.

Right now, two local school districts are in mediation to settle labor contracts.

While no agreements have been reached on contracts for teachers in Regional School Unit 40 and RSU 13, the teachers have received their step pay raises, except for those at the top of the pay scale.

About 80 percent of the cost of this year’s school budgets will consist of staff salaries, and school budgets account for the lion’s share of residents’ property tax bills.

When we watch budgets this year, even a zero percent increase is really a tax increase, because even if schools do not increase their expenditures, revenues from the state have been slashed, leaving local taxpayers to eat the difference.

In the town of Warren, for example, the proposed 2010 budget includes no pay raises for town employees.

We are sure that Warren’s public officials, highway department staff, office workers and librarian all work hard and deserve to be rewarded for their service. Difficult sacrifices are being made, however, to help taxpayers at a time when unemployment and foreclosures are on the rise.

The school districts should be no different. Our teachers work hard and do an incredibly important job. It’s our duty to invest in education in the hopes that our young people will have opportunities in the future.

Still, a great many people are figuring out how to do without more pay this year and a freeze on school pay increases would go a long way toward helping the majority of taxpayers.

 

Help is available for depression

Winter can be a difficult season, especially for those who struggle with depression.

Some suffer from seasonal affective disorder, a form of depression that manifests itself during the dark winter months. Others are struggling to find work or help family members who have lost their jobs.

People sometimes forget that depression is a disease. It is often biochemical in nature and a person cannot simply will themselves to feel better or “snap out of it.”

It can also be a very serious illness leading to suicide, substance abuse and other problems.

Symptoms include changes in sleep patterns (excessive sleeping or trouble sleeping), agitation, irritability, dramatic change in appetite with weight loss or gain, withdrawal from usual activities, and feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness and guilt.

“An estimated 19 million American adults are living with major depression,” according to WebMD.

Those who are suffering thoughts of suicide or battling chronic depression need to seek medical help. The Mid-Coast Mental Health Center can direct people to the help they need. The center is located at 12 Union St. in Rockland and can be contacted at 207-701-4400. The number for the crisis line is 888-568-1112.

For those with mild cases of the winter blues or depression, online sources suggest that a healthy diet and exercise can help alleviate symptoms.