Many of you have likely begun to see the orange “Yes for Reading” lawn signs scattered throughout the town encouraging residents to get out the vote on October 18th. For those of you who are not already aware, Reading is facing a significant structural budget deficit that results primarily from (i) decreased state funding and (ii) health care costs that are growing substantially faster than the 2.5% cap on property tax revenue growth. As a result, without passage of the override, we face the prospect of significant cuts in our school and town budgets which will likely produce substantial cuts in teachers (up to 35 teachers and school staff are expected to be cut without the Override), increased class sizes (up to 28 students per class at the elementary school level), reductions in town services (including public safety personnel) and, ultimately, declining property values for everyone.
The Reading public schools are the heart of our community. Many families (including ours) moved to Reading because we believed we could provide our children with access to a high quality public school system and all of the opportunities for success in life that derive from that. If we allow our schools to start sliding downhill, not only do we disadvantage our own children in the process during their critical formative years but we will also make Reading a significantly less desirable option for young families searching for a place to call home.
When our family relocated to the Boston area from Southern California two and a half years ago, we chose Reading for a variety of reasons – convenient access to transportation (highways, commuter rail etc.), quaint New England charm, diversity of the community’s residents and, most importantly, the stability and strength of the public schools. Let’s continue to make Reading an attractive destination for future families just like it was for ours not too long ago.
Reading is not unique in the problems that we face, but we are at a critical crossroads. No one enjoys seeing property taxes go up, but the alternative is far, far worse.
Vote “Yes” on October 18th and let’s all step up to this challenge together, for our children’s future and for the future of our town.
Sarah and Todd Merkle