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Reduce the size of Monument Mountain Regional High School

In his letter, Lou Davis writes: "My objection is not to the cost of quality education, or paying the taxes necessary to support it. I do object to having my taxes subsidize out-of-District students."

To the Editor:

The real issue for me is whether we should accept the School Board’s plan to renovate Monument for 570 students, or reject it and pressure the Board to start over and accept a renovation sized to the needs of the three towns that make up the District — say about 350 students — a difference of 220.

When faced with the choice of what size school to build, all seats cost the same, regardless of whether they are built for District students or choice students. After the school is built, it makes sense to use extra seats for discounted choice and contract students, but that isn’t the position we are in now. We can build smaller and save on construction, heat, electric, repair, maintenance, etc. At this point, all costs are variable.

Let me do a simple and crude calculation of the long-term subsidy we will provide to the out of district students If we build the bigger school. The bigger school has space for 220 more students. Let’s say that it costs the District $15,000 to educate a student, and that the average combined revenue for choice and contract students is $6,000. That means that there is a $9,000 subsidy per student, which is covered by District taxpayers. $9,000 times 220 students is virtually $2 million per year. And this subsidy continues until Monument needs it’s next renovation, perhaps 40 years from now. Also, the subsidy will rise annually with inflation, and this cost will be born entirely by District taxpayers because there is no mechanism for increasing choice and tuition payments.

As I said, the numbers are crude. The point I am making is that if we build for a large number of choice and contract students for whom we receive steeply discounted tuition, the annual subsidy will be huge.

I am in favor of a soup to nuts renovation of Monument. I have no problem with items that some might consider luxuries. I would also favor using some of the money we save from not subsidizing the out of district students for enrichment programs for our own students. My objection is not to the cost of quality education, or paying the taxes necessary to support it. I do object to having my taxes subsidize out-of-District students.

Lou Davis

Great Barrington

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