“Our lives begin to end when we are silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Simple words by a great man.
I feel compelled to write this letter as a taxpayer, because my silence would enable those who are using something that I insisted be a part of the resolution that the voters of North Stonington approved back in 2016, as a loophole, which is resulting in a lot of negativity and hostility that I am witnessing at public meetings and on social media. I find this appalling and disturbing.
For those who have not been at all of the public meetings and discussions that were held about the School Modernization Project, I was there for every single one. I heard the pros and the cons, the whys and the why nots and after educating myself not only as a taxpayer but as a member on the North Stonington Board of Finance, I came to agree that moving forward with the project, as presented, was the most fiscally responsible thing to do for the taxpayers of our town. Since closing our schools is not an option that I would ever consider, I wanted to find a way to address the concerns of those who were worried about the state of Connecticut not funding the project at the level that we, the townspeople, were being told was available — 46.07 percent.
The Board of Finance met regularly and this topic found our board divided, just like the town is now. In an effort to “meet in the middle,” a stipulation was put in place that indicated the process would stop if things changed and the project would no longer be funded at 46.07 percent.
This stipulation was put into place as a safety net — so that if for some reason, the state of Connecticut came back and said “sorry folks, this year, due to budget constraints, we are only going to reimburse school projects at 30 percent,” the town would then have the option to reevaluate and reconsider.
This stipulation was not added or designed to be the loop hole for which some are trying to use it now, as a means to stop this project by demanding a revote.
It is my belief that the town has not been mislead by the intention or the wording of the resolution. The people involved in the School Modernization Project have done their part to keep costs within the amount that has been approved by the taxpayers. They have also received promise of reimbursement by the state at the amount that was discussed and agreed to, which is 46.07 percent.
Part of living in a community is supporting members of all ages, positions in life and economic means. We need to support and nurture our children as they learn and grow. Our children need to be taught to support the elderly. Everyone of all ages needs to be respectful of their neighbors’ personal limitations, and always take that into consideration when making decisions and pursuing actions that affect our whole community. We need our schools in our town.
Our schools are the heart of our community. They are the places where people of all races, religions, economic backgrounds can come together and learn and grow. They are the places where we learn to respect our differences and keep an open mind. They are the places where the community can come and show its support and pride by attending a soccer game or basketball game, a school play or even a graduation ceremony. They are the places where we teach our kids compassion and where kids find passion and excitement for what they want to “be” and where they want to “go.”
We are working now more than ever on being transparent in how our tax dollars are being spent and working to keep our budgets as tight as possible without sacrificing the services that our citizens have come to expect and need. I am a firm believer that everything works out for the good. I am also a firm believer that given the opportunity, most people will “do the right thing” even if doing the right thing doesn’t benefit them personally.
Our schools, as limited as they may be in numbers of students, turn out graduates who are accepted into some of the most highly regarded educational institutions in our land. Our graduates, even if they choose to go into a trade, are as successful as they want to be in their chosen profession. All of my classmates that I graduated with in 1988 and have kept in touch with are doing well for themselves and doing good for the communities in which they chose to live. We are hard working. We are compassionate. We are volunteers, giving back all over this country and the world.
We, as a community, need to celebrate our successes, work through our challenges and remember that at the end of the day we are all neighbors. Please support the School Modernization Project not only because it’s the right thing to do but because it makes fiscal sense for now and for the future growth, stability and prosperity of our town.
Carolyn HowellNorth Stonington