EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 3, 2013

Your view: Letters to the editor

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Support next phase of school renovations

To the editor:

It’s been heartening the past few weeks to see and read all the tremendous support that the much-needed renovation project of our Salem schools has with many of our local residents. The current proposal is Phase 2 of the Facilities Master Plan, and encompasses the Soule, Fisk and Haigh kindergarten/elementary schools, which were not covered by last year’s Phase 1 ameliorations that corrected deficiencies in the Barron, Lancaster and North Salem schools. Residents have an important opportunity and even responsibility on Tuesday, March 12 to approve these long-overdue ameliorations, which will be Articles 2 and 3 on your ballots.

A piece of excellent news arrived on Monday with the announcement that the Salem school system will receive a total of $750,000 of state aid from Concord to be applied for these improvements if the proposal is voted in on March 12. This is an extremely welcome development and points up one of Gov. Maggie Hassan’s foremost promises during last year’s gubernatorial campaign to make New Hampshire’s students, at all levels, one of her priorities as governor. This grant will reduce town costs and help ensure that the September completion time line for the work on the three schools will be met. Salem parents and their school-age children can thank the citizen’s group Strengthen Our Schools (SOS) for their tireless work over the past several years in getting the word out in print and online regarding the importance of supporting these two public school projects.

Until the Phase 1 approval all of our six schools, in varying levels, were in a terrible state of disrepair as well as being basically outmoded. Major problems in the three remaining locations include the dearth of both suitable children car drop-off area and extracurricular activities space, as well as wholesale crowding due to hallways being used for storage locations. But most significantly, on the all-important safety issue the three schools have fallen out of code compliance, with many classrooms lacking fire alarms and sprinkler systems, and incredibly still containing asbestos in some areas. There is also the complete absence of building security systems, which have become extremely popular nationally since the Newtown tragedy.

Voter approval of these articles will be a win-win for Salem residents. It will finally bring the Soule, Fisk and Haigh school infrastructures into the 21st century, helping to enrich the current crop of students in attendance as well as future generations of our young ones. And as school renovations always translate into the raising of property values in surrounding areas, homeowners can look forward to a reversal of the downward turn in worth that many of our domiciles have experienced in the past five years.

For much more information on Phase 2 please Google “Strengthen Our Schools.” And also please join with me and thousands of other Salem citizens in approving Phase 2, Articles 2 and 3 on Tuesday, March 12.

William F. Klessens


Cigarette tax hike won’t hurt New Hampshire sales

To the editor:

On Feb. 14, Gov. Maggie Hassan submitted her proposed budget to a joint session in Concord. She proposed a few revenue enhancing proposals to help fund state priorities such as health care, public safety, education, infrastructure and economic development. One such proposal was an increase of 30 cents in the state excise tax on cigarettes.

At present, the excise taxes on cigarettes in New Hampshire and the surrounding states are: New Hampshire, $1.68; Maine, $2; Massachusetts,$2.51; and Vermont, $2.62. The average cost of a pack of cigarettes in each state is: New Hampshire, $5.87; Maine, $6.97; Vermont, $7.60 and $8.49 in Massachusetts. Given the prices, New Hampshire will still have the lowest cost of cigarettes — $6.17 — compared to the states around us.

Republican Rep. Ronald Belanger of Salem recently told The Eagle-Tribune newspaper that a 30-cent cigarette tax increase would hurt middle- and lower-class families: “It hurts the working class families. If you’ve got a family of four or five kids, it’s going to take away from them. I wouldn’t put a burden on that family.” Rep. Belanger, I would say that such a family can’t afford parents that smoke.

I don’t think making cigarettes readily available to minors, getting them hooked on an addictive drug, allowing them to suffer adverse health effects, denying them proper medical care because some representatives are averse to accepting federal health-care programs and, thereby, condemning them to death as adults is sound policy. Opposition to raising the cigarette tax is not just bad government, it’s inhumane. I understand that some representatives accept money from big business to fund their campaigns, but when it comes to public health-care costs associated with smoking cigarettes, being more selective in the source of campaign funds would aid the general welfare of New Hampshire citizens.

Harlan Cheney