Tuesday June 11, 2013

There has been a substantial amount of discussion in The Banner recently regarding the Bennington School District budget proposal and what it means to the students and their parents. I’d like to speak in a broader context about the importance of school systems to communities such as Bennington.

According to the recently released Bennington Strategic Economic Development Plan, as of 2011 three economic sectors, health and social services, manufacturing, and education (including colleges), provided approximately 57 percent of the 9,750 jobs in Bennington. On a per-employee basis, the average wage in these sectors is over $14,000/year higher than for the other sectors considered in the study. Businesses in each of these economic sectors depend on our school system in a number of ways. The first and most obvious is that they depend on our schools to produce a steady stream of qualified, capable candidates for employment. Note that what is being asked of these employees from a knowledge standpoint is ever-increasing, which stands in contrast to the attitude, pervasive in some parts of our community that, "if it was good enough for me when I was in school, it should be good enough now." The expectations placed on students and graduates have never been higher, and I believe that this needs to be acknowledged.

While these local institutions rely on our school system to provide employees, and it is true that there are a significant number of home-town physicians and nurses, engineers and technicians, teachers and school administrators, etc., it is also true that all of them must recruit a portion of their workforce from outside of Bennington. To successfully recruit employees to come to an area, that area must be a reasonably attractive place to raise a family. If a prospective recruit is looking at Bennington and sees that their child may not be able to have music instruction, or physical education, or library services at their elementary school, what is the chance that they will choose to come? Would loss of such programs cause employees who are already here to leave seeking better educational opportunities for their children? I am particularly concerned about Bennington’s manufacturing sector, as when compared to health and social services and education, manufacturing facilities are not tied to their communities in the same way. Manufacturing accounts for 16% of the overall jobs in Bennington, and has the highest average annual wage of the "major" economic sectors. Large local manufacturers include NSK, Energizer, Kaman, Plasan, JBM Carmel, Vishay Tansitor, National Hanger, and Mack Molding. With one exception, each of these companies have manufacturing facilities in other states and/or countries.

As such, the Bennington locations for these companies must compete within their organizations for work. As markets change, it is typical for such companies to consolidate operations and to downsize or close their least-competitive facilities. If these companies’ Bennington facilities have trouble recruiting and retaining good employees, they become less competitive and subsequently are at greater risk for work reduction or outright closure. As examples, last fall Energizer announced that their St. Albans plant will close at the end of this summer with a loss of 165 jobs; NSK has fewer than half of the employees that they had at their peak 5 to 7 years ago; and just three weeks ago we learned that Mace was leaving Bennington, with a subsequent loss of 40 jobs.

I therefore encourage voters to consider not only the impacts on students (potentially catastrophic if this budget fails) and their tax bills (relatively small if the budget passes at $54.30/$100,000 assessed value, or less if one qualifies for the income-sensitivity pre-bate), but also the potential longer-term impacts on our community as a whole. If Bennington’s school system is not supported by us, the voters, the likelihood that we will in turn be supported by the institutions that we depend on for the majority of the town’s economic activity diminishes greatly. Vote ‘yes’ on June 11.

BRAD DEBOER

Bennington

Beware of Roundup

I would like to make people aware of the weed killer or herbicide Roundup.

First of all there is a genetic component to this chemical. So ladies, if you are pregnant or plan to be, or have a new baby, toddler or young child beware of the results of exposing these humans to Roundup.

Also, the devastation to wildlife, especially song birds is horrific. I have heard that one spray of Roundup kills three birds. Who would do this for the sake of a few weeds? There are also links to non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. It is lethal to amphibians. Keep it away from growing vegetables, and it kills all plant life.

Please people, take notice.

FRAN BROOMHALL

Shaftsbury

Shumlin good

at sacrificing people

The Therrien family of Sheffield would like to extend our sympathies to the Dodge family.

Shumlin is good at sacrificing people -- he sacrificed ours and other families when he green lighted Industrial Wind Turbines in Vermont.

To hear him say he was acting as a good neighbor and true Vermonter is an insult to every Vermonter.

Mr. Shumlin, please quit using the terms.

A true Vermonter turns every stone to help a neighbor.

Not scratch out an agreement and offer their own lawyer as council, making a sacrifice of a neighbor for their own gain.

Being who Shumlin is and his background in the state of Vermont -- knew full well the laws and that Jerry had options.

Shumlin said "with all power comes sacrifice and problems."

Apparently the same can be said if you are his neighbor and live in Vermont. This is just another example of how Shumlin could care less about the "little guy."

We know, because Shumlin has sacrificed us.

STEVE and LUANN THERRIEN

Sheffield