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Mendon Musings

It's Budget Season; Time to Use Those Math Skills



I am not, by nature, a mathematically inclined person.

In high school, math was my worst subject. In fact, my inability to grapple with geometry in sophomore year condemned me to the non-college prep track in math for my remaining two years. There, Mrs. Conway – my math teacher for both junior and senior years – would try to convince me that, someday, I would need the skills she was teaching.

Well, Mrs. Conway, it only took about another 40 years for your words to ring true. If you were still with us, I'd go and visit you to say, "You were right."

You see, lately I've been taking courses to become a Massachusetts Accredited Assessor – a professional designation that can be earned by Assessors and members of Board of Assessors. These courses involve a lot of math.

So, while doing problems last month in my "Mass Appraisal" course involving coefficient of dispersion – you know, the absolute average deviation divided by the median assessment-to-sales ratio times 100 –it dawned on me that not only was I doing a lot of math, but also that I was fairly good at it.

When the teacher put an answer of 0.625 up on the whiteboard, I knew that was equal to five-eighths. Scary! But, do a house renovation for two years and I'll guarantee you'll be able to do fractions quickly! There's a reason for the old saying, "Measure twice, cut once."

I guess that, if you do something frequently, it becomes second nature to you. If you don't use those skills, they become rusty or non-existent. And, you can remember something you learned decades ago.

I also guess that there are all different kinds of minds and all different kinds of learners. I can't seem to get Sudoku, no matter how hard I try. But, I look at a crossword puzzle and – without counting the blank squares – seem to just know the word that fits. But then, I've been doing The New York Times crossword puzzles daily since I've been 18. I've given up on Sudoku more times than I care to count.

Speaking of math, I see in the Mendon budget proposed for Fiscal Year 2018 beginning July 1, that there is $108,834 listed for the Police Chief's salary and $98,000 listed for the new Fire Chief's salary. Those two numbers add up to $206,834.

That's $71,572 more than the $135,262 previous salary for "Public Safety Director." That's a 54 percent increase.

It's nice to have math skills so you can calculate things like that and then ask what happened to the idea of saving money – Is one person actually cheaper than two?




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