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The Howler

Wallace’s Report on our Annual Reports

Ian Wallace, Columnist

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Do you want time away from the boring Oprah’s Book Club novels that your English teachers assign?  Try a new type of literature: town annual reports. On the surface they seem like boring, legal mumbo-jumbo, but if you analyze the text carefully, fascinating information awaits.  By reading the annual reports for the the Bellows Falls Union High School and the Town of Rockingham, both released in early 2018, I found critical information forming a jigsaw puzzle of our town budget, revealing everything a taxpayer may want to know about where their money is allocated.

The report that may interest students at BFUHS is, of course, the Bellows Falls Union High School Annual Report and Budget Review.  Here students can find the cost of salaries and services such as bus transportation, maintenance, and even their extracurricular activities.  For example, the school spends around $15,000 on the Football team in repairs, maintenance, and supplies every year, a rather expensive sport when compared to Tennis, which only incurs around $400-600 under the same categories.

As for staff salaries, I found two major discoveries.  The first is that teacher salaries only make up about two thirds of the cost of a department, sometimes even less.  For example, the four social studies teachers make a combined $230,000, but the additional cost of benefits such as health insurance ($64,000 for the department), continuing education reimbursement, and instructional materials raise the total cost to around $325,000.  The second is that salaries are largely determined by the teachers union. Salaries are consistent across subject areas and are generally higher than non-unionized positions of the same type. This is evidenced when comparing the salary of the BFUHS librarian to the salary of the library director at the Rockingham Free Public library.  The school librarian makes around $65,000 compared to the $52,000 of the Rockingham Library director according to the Rockingham Annual Report.

If you’re a BFUHS student from Rockingham, the costs involved with running the town are equally exciting.  For example, renting those silly speed signs cost us $743 in 2017 and our beloved cheap movie theater cost the town $8,760 last year.  Additionally, the delinquent tax report allows you to see who hasn’t paid their share of property taxes at the time of publication.

Between the reports of Rockingham and BFUHS, this article could have been far longer.  After spending hours on reading the reports, I’ve certainly found my new literature, and it could be yours.  Read copies of the reports for free at the Rockingham Town Hall, and take a break from the Oprah’s Book Club material that’s infamously assigned by our English teachers.

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Wallace’s Report on our Annual Reports