To the editor:
In recent discussion of Devens there is a failure to look at Harvard’s present serious situation. It is difficult to know where to start.
Our income is the property tax and a reduced state supplement. Last year the FinCom could see only annual overrides and annual property tax increase to minimally fund our needs. How many years until the electorate says “enough” of this? Then what? Five years of under funding has reduced the effectiveness our public schools. Those involved with running the schools — School Committee, administrators, teachers and school council — are well aware of the program cuts that are not appreciated by the general public.
At present we fund the schools with money from state and town government. Parents pay user fees for student participation in sports and school programs that total $200,000 per year. User fees in Harvard are the highest in the state. This year some students are not participating in athletics because of expense and reluctance to ask for charity. The third source of school funds is donations (charity). The PTA and the Schools Trust have given over $75,000 to Bromfield for textbooks and unfunded programs. The science lab fund drive permitted a science program that includes lab work. Music benefits from another fund drive. The elementary school has also received generous donations that have made significant improvements. Special Ed costs have increased. How these costs are to be met is not clear at present. The Harvard teachers’ contract has not been signed and at present a job action against the schools is on the books. Funding for contract costs are undetermined.
The town center plan is unfunded. In the spring the elementary school reached nominal capacity predicted three years ago. The consultants advised obtaining 20 acres so that there would be land for another school predicted in 10 years. No serious action has been taken. The town owns no unused municipal land. The Public Works Dept. is underfunded and undermanned. Harvard’s problems are severe and real. Resuming Devens jurisdiction is an opportunity for Harvard to work its way out of crippling poverty and to become a significant contributor to Devens and to once again control our borders. It is true more figures will not guarantee success or failure of the undertaking. Determination and success-driven leadership will make the difference. It is up to us, as responsible citizens, to learn all we can. For in October, at a special town meeting, we will vote — continue in the limitations of poverty or, with work and leadership, find long-term success.