Westport 1-16-11

It's school budget season once again, and the emails and letters to the editor have started up in earnest. Last week, our new editor Keith Lobdell had an excellent piece in this paper describing the efforts being made by Superintendent Gallagher and the school board to keep next year's budget as close to this year's as possible. With state aid looking shaky and unfunded mandates looming ever larger, they've got their work cut out for them.

There was also a letter from a couple who reside in Florida but spend half the year in Westport, expressing their wish to be allowed to vote in school elections. This has been the subject of recent widely circulated emails from the same voices we've heard demanding cuts in the school budget. It's an interesting question: should non-resident property owners be allowed to vote in local elections?

Traditionally, the answer to that question has been "No." Taxes have traditionally been considered a civic burden, not a financial transaction. In other words, if you pay $X in taxes, that doesn't mean you have a right to $X in services while the person paying less than $X gets less for their money. The services are there for all, while the burden is assessed according to resources. Taxes don't buy anything, in other words, whether it's services or votes. Instead, taxes provide for civic community, in which we all have both rights and responsibilities. In the past, too, we have operated by the principle of one person, one vote.

These may be the traditional approaches that our society has adopted, but all around us there are signs that this might be changing. And society is allowed to change the norms and standards by which it governs itself. So-maybe it's time to reassess some of these assumptions. Let me know what you think.

Finally, there will be a Blood Bank at the Wadhams Church of Christ on Monday, Jan. 17, from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., sponsored by the Church and the Wadhams Volunteer Fire Company. Last time they had 14 donors. A good turnout, but they'd like your help in raising the number.

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