Eleven Weeks of Counting the Mail

For no good reason outside of my own curiosity I have taken on a project of analyzing what shows up in my mailbox.  After eleven weeks of collecting information, there are some interesting things that I’ve observed.   How useful this project is, or will be, remains questionable.  But I can find no signs online of anyone doing this sort of project, so perhaps it will reveal something valuable.  Even with eleven weeks of data, the numbers are still relatively small, so we should be careful not to draw any concrete conclusions just yet.

First, let’s start by looking at what has shown up in the mailbox each week.  As much as some folks rant against stacked bar charts, I think they can be useful in some situations.  Situations like this, for example.  Here we can see the weekly volume of mail that my local carrier delivered to the box, how that number changed over time, and what the majority category was for each week.  Each week’s bar is sorted by quantity, with the largest quantity category placed at the bottom.  This makes large changes easy to spot.  It should be easy, for example, to grasp when the last election took place from the sudden rise (and subsequent disappearance) in the purple bars.

Eleven weeks of USPS mail, by category.

Eleven weeks of USPS mail, by category.

In brief, over these eleven weeks I received anywhere from 13 to 33 pieces of mail each week.  The average was 22 pieces of weekly mail with a standard deviation of about 6.5.  I’m not sure that a Gaussian model is the right one for this type of data (Poisson is probably more reasonable), but it gives a reasonable summary for a smallish data set.  Examining the distribution statistics is something I intend to do once the dataset grows a bit larger.

The relative breakdown between the categories is not surprising.  Advertisements dominate the composition.  I trust the political ads will be competitive for second place as the November election gets closer.  What I think this shows pretty clearly is how the Post Office gets paid.  Fully half of the mail I have received has been advertising, either the normal (34.5%) or the political flavor (17.8%).  I don’t think I would have guessed it to be that high.  If there is ever legislation passed to limit junk mail, the USPS will be in bigger financial trouble than they’re in already.

Mail_totals_percent_by_category (11 weeks)

What I find terribly interesting, though, is the breakdown by weekday. Meaning, the day of the week that the piece of mail was received.  Eleven weeks is not the biggest sample size, and so this may not hold true in the long run.  But Friday is absolutely a dominant day for the quantity of mail.  And not just for a single category.  The three major categories all have big mail days on Friday.

Mail totals by day of the week.

Mail totals by day of the week.

We can see this more clearly by looking at the categories separately.  I’ve separated out the weekly totals in actual pieces of mail for these categories.  First are “Advertisements,” otherwise known as “junk mail.”  Friday stands above the crowd with 22 above Wednesday’s 19.  Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday all come in at 10, so this difference appears to be significant.

Advertisement_by_Weekday (11 weeks)

Then we have “Information.”  This is mail from people or businesses that I have a relationship with.  Doctors’ offices, schools, banks, etc.  This is a very big Friday category with 18.  The next largest day is Saturday with 9.

Information_by_Weekday (11 weeks)

And then “Political Advertisements.”  I’m somewhat conflicted on how valid this category is. There was an election held on a Tuesday, and the direct mail spike happened on the Thursday (7 pieces) and Friday (6 pieces) of the week before.  Since the election I have received at most one political advertisement on any given day.  So this contributes to the “big Friday” effect, to be sure, but it was just one week out of eleven, so its impact is mitigated by its relative rarity.  But note that eliminating the category altogether would still result in Friday being the dominant weekday for mail delivery.

Political Advertisement_by_Weekday (11 weeks)

So this “big Friday” effect seems like it might be real.  But the raw numbers are still relatively small and the time relatively short.  So I’m cautious about drawing too many conclusions just yet, but it certainly is an interesting, if preliminary, result.

Book Review: A More Beautiful Question – Warren Berger

Questions play a significant role in how we learn.  The quest for knowledge and just plain human curiosity are natural drivers for the questions we ask.  But what is different about the most creative, the most innovative—the designers, the inventors, the engineers?  What sets them apart?  The author and journalist Warren Berger sought to find out and details his findings in A More Beautiful Question:  The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas.  What he found, in brief, was that these people differ in their exceptional ability to ask questions.  Specifically, they ask the types of questions that force a different perspective.  Something ambitious.  Something actionable.  He calls these “beautiful questions,” a la E.E. Cummings.

“Always the beautiful answer

Who asks a more beautiful question.”  — E.E. Cummings

So what is a beautiful question?  Berger gives us some examples.

  • When Intel co-founders Andrew Grove and Gordon Moore were contemplating the future of Intel, they faced a difficult decision.  Should they stick with making memory chips, or switch to the (perhaps) more promising world of microprocessors?  Their beautiful question: “If we were kicked out of the company, what do you think the new CEO would do?”  Without the emotional attachment to the company’s product history, the right decision was clear, and arguably vindicated by history.
  • When taking a photograph of his three year old daughter in 1943, Edwin Land was asked by her, “Why do we have to wait for the picture?”  Land went on to co-found Polaroid and developed the instant photograph.
  • After losing a foot in a waterskiing accident, Van Phillips asked his beautiful question. “If they can put a man on the moon, why can’t they make a decent foot?”  His answer revolutionized the world of prosthetics.

“So then, one of the primary drivers of questioning is an awareness of what we don’t know—which is a form of higher awareness that separates not only man from monkey but also the smart and curious person from the dullard who doesn’t know or care.” — Warren Berger, A More Beautiful Question

Not satisfied simply to understand this type of questioning, Berger dives into related issues.  The discussion on the decline of question asking as we age was particularly enlightening (Chapter 2 – Why We Stop Questioning). He cites a Newsweek article from 2010 that made an revealing, but mostly overlooked observation:

“Preschool children, on average, ask their parents about 100 questions a day. By middle school, they’ve pretty much stopped asking.” —Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, The Creativity Crisis, Newsweek, 7/10/2010

Not surprisingly, he asks why this happens in a well-researched and stimulating chapter that is mostly focused on the changes in education.  It is insightful and not too preachy.

Although he points out that there isn’t a specific roadmap to follow, Berger does boil down the fundamentals of the “beautiful” questioning process into its characteristic stages of Why, What If, and How.  I don’t believe too many will find that series of questions shocking, or even anything but expected.  As someone who does R&D for a living I found myself nodding in agreement but hoping for something less…obvious.  But Berger makes it real by including specifics from innovation leaders and how questioning is part of how they work.

Perhaps too much emphasis is placed on building an empire around solving the problem that caused the question to be asked.  Early on in the book, the key observation is that innovative questioners “give form to their ideas and make them real.”  But later, the emphasis is on good questions and how they are formed, which is persistent through the last few chapters.  I’m going to say he ended up in the right place.

Questioning in Business and Questioning for Life are the last two chapters and are full of questions you haven’t likely thought about or asked yourself.  I have a personal quest to think thoughts I haven’t had before, and these were stimulating chapters.  Questions such as “what should we stop doing?” or “what should we learn?” in business (instead of “what should we do?”).  And techniques like “thinking wrong” to “jiggle the synapses” are introduced.  It is a clever read that takes you beyond simply reading for pleasure and challenges the way you look at the world each day.

“Jeff Weiner, the chief executive of LinkedIn, observed that he often asks prospective employees this reasonable and fairly straightforward question: Looking back on your career, twenty or thirty years from now, what do you want to say you’ve accomplished?…You’d be amazed how many people I meet don’t have the answer to that question,” Weiner said.”

Berger has put together a quality work.  The breadth of the content means you’re going to see something you haven’t seen before, and the things you have seen before will likely have a new perspective.  Cap that off with twenty-five pages of notes organized by chapter, and indices for both the questions and the questioners featured in the book, and this one is worth having in hardcover.

“We must embrace the notion that answers are in fact quite boring.  The Irish are especially good or infuriating in this respect.  We answer questions with questions.  But in my opinion that’s a good place to be.  A little perplexed by the perplexity of life.” —Colum McCann

Pre-Primary Political Mail

It is the day before the Primary election, so it is time for a political mail update.  Not quite the inundation at the mailbox today that I was expecting, just a single piece of political mail.  I’m disappointed, actually.  Saturday was a big drop from Thursday, which was the biggest day.  I would have expected the peak volume to be a little closer to election day, but then again, I don’t run campaigns.

Political advertisements, by date received.

Political advertisements, by date received.

Political mail by sender plot is updated below.  Still, no direct mail from any of our U.S Senate campaigners, although Mayday.us is pushing hard for Jim Rubens.  I remain baffled by the lack of direct mail ads from this contest.  Dan Hynes, running for State Senate in my district has the most direct mailings for the primary at 5.  Marilinda Garcia and Steve Hattamer close behind at 4.  Lots of folks with just one mailing, including Haverstein, who is running for governor.  I will be very interested in tomorrow’s results.

Political advertisements, sorted by sender.

Political advertisements, sorted by sender.

Analyzing the mail

Being a data person makes me do unusual things at times.  For example, I’ve been recording the contents of my mailbox each day in an attempt to understand what advertisers know, or think they know anyway, about me.  By mailbox I mean the container on a wooden post on the side of the street in front of my house, and not the electronic sort which contains promises of Nigerian wealth and deep discounts on Viagra.  I note the date, the sender, and the category of each item of mail not specifically addressed to anyone else in the house.  So anything generically sent to my address without a name, or sent to me specifically makes the cut.

Things like this require much patience from my wife.

Knowing that this is an election year might make this an interesting project.  Given that we have a primary election here next Tuesday, the political mailers are probably the most interesting story.  But first, let’s have a look at six weeks of mail, broken down into categories.  The bar graph is sorted so that the largest category is at the bottom for each day.  This is on the busy side, to be sure, but from the colors alone you can see that straight up “Advertisements” (in red) are the largest category, with “Political Advertisements” (purple) a close second (the two are maintained as separate categories).  You can see the last two days were a bit bigger than usual for volume.

Categorized mail by date received.

Categorized mail by date received.

This is clearer by looking at totals by category instead of by date.

Six weeks of mail, sorted by category.

Six weeks of mail, sorted by category.

That’s all fine and good. Nothing unexpected there.  Mostly advertisements, some bills, 401(k) statements, a few magazines.  What is remarkable though, is how the “Political Advertisements” category is growing.  That first graph is somewhat difficult to read carefully because it has all the categories in there together.  So let’s just see political ads on their own.  

Political advertisements, by date received.

Political advertisements, by date received.

Now this is interesting.  Given that the last few days have contained half the political ads I’ve received in six weeks, I can only imagine what the next few days will bring.  

Something that is interesting can be seen in the totals by “sender” graph (political mail sorted by by who sent it, plotted below).  Not from what is there, but from what is missing.  In the US Senate race, the biggest race in the state, four days before the primary, and I have received nothing at all in my mailbox from any of the US Senate candidates.  Nothing at all from Scott Brown or Bob Smith, but do note that Mayday.us is running ads in favor of Jim Rubens, though they claim not to be authorized by any candidate.  (It seems my naming convention for this category get picked up by the ad blockers, so if you don’t see some of these graphs, pause your ad blocker for the moment.)

Political advertisements, sorted by sender.

Political advertisements, sorted by sender.

I’m not sure what that means right now, but it does lend some insight into their respective strategies.   And as I wrote that my phone rang with a call from Scott Brown’s campaign…

Amherst Population Forecasts and Land Usage

Between 1960 and 1980 the town of Amherst, NH underwent tremendous population growth.  The US Census listed the town population at 2061 in the 1960 census and at 8243 in the one taken in 1980.  That is, in twenty years time the town’s population doubled twice.  This was a time when Amherst was transitioning from farms to the bedroom community as we know it today.  Some questions we might want to consider are what might the town’s population look like in the future and where will whatever growth we have take place in town.  The answers to these questions have a lot of impact on town planning needs, and frankly, these sorts of questions interest me in general.

In 1998 the town put together a master plan that, among other things, created a projection of the town’s population out to 2020.  As you can see from the graph below, the blue master plan projection numbers assumed that the growth rate of the last twenty years would continue into the next twenty years.   And maybe even increase a bit.  The forecast being created in 1998, the 2000 number matches well with the 2000 US Census, but overpredicts the 2010 numbers by about 1000.  Given the amount of developable land remaining in town and the zoning laws we have (e.g., 2 acre minimum lot sizes for new developments), the rest of the forecast looks suspiciously high.

Historic Amherst, NH population (red) and 1998 Master Plan projection (blue).

Historic Amherst, NH population (red) and 1998 Master Plan projection (blue).

In 2013 the State of New Hampshire’s Office of Energy and Planning put together municipal population forecasts for New Hampshire towns out to 2040.  Their projections are considerably more cautious than the ones the town created 15 years earlier, and suggest that we will slowly reach a peak population of about 12,000 people in about the next two decades.  In other words, population growth in Amherst is expected to continue, but not at rates even close to what the 1998 predictions suggested.

Historic Amherst, NH population (red) and 2013 state projection (yellow).

Historic Amherst, NH population (red) and 2013 state projection (yellow).

This seems to be reasonable.  Thanks to the fine folks at the Nashua Regional Planning Commission, we can take a look at the land usage in Amherst to get a feel for how much and where land is available in town for future growth.  In the plot below I have colored the various land usages in Amherst to correspond with how they are used.  So there are conservation land, lots currently used for housing, town property (schools, town offices, cemeteries, recreation land, etc.), commercial or industrial land, and wetlands and floodplains.  The uncolored lots are (or should be) available for development, although I can’t comment on how feasible they are.  It is an interesting map, and worth a close up look.  Perhaps 12,000 or so is the most people we can actually have in town.

Amherst, NH parcel map.  Colored lots are either developed, conservation land, town property, commercial/industrial, or floodplain/wetland.  Data courtesy of Nashua Regional Planning Commission.

Amherst, NH parcel map. Colored lots are either developed, conservation land, town property, commercial/industrial, or floodplain/wetland. Data courtesy of Nashua Regional Planning Commission.

The map above should be understood as a guide, as I can’t validate when the NRPC updates their parcel usage data.  But clearly the unused land that is available for potential development is in the minority of land in town, and that will be the limiting factor to the town’s future population.

Clarifications on Amherst School District Spending

A few months ago, as part of my school district budget analysis, I published some numbers on Amherst’s cost per student spending.  This cost per student number is a commonly used metric to understand spending efficiency as well as to draw comparisons between districts.  As this year’s Ways and Means committee chair for the district, I sought answers to the reasons behind the significant jump in this number.  On October 8th, Ways and Means met with members of the School Board and the SAU to discuss these, and other numbers dealing with our school district spending.

I really need to applaud the transparency of the school administration here.  Significant time and effort was put into their response to the questions I posed, and they worked very hard to provide real meaningful answers, and the numbers to back them up.  To the point of contacting other districts to clarify their numbers, and sometimes being told to go away.

A few interesting things came out of the discussion.  In reviewing our numbers and comparing them with other districts, it quickly became clear that making comparisons between districts is difficult because different districts will report numbers differently to the state, and that the state’s formulas for some derived metrics (i.e. cost per student) can omit some very important considerations that aren’t immediately apparent, but have some huge implications in the numbers that are the most visible to taxpayers.

Most importantly, in the state’s calculations, bond payments are not factored into the cost per student number.  This is huge.  Some districts with newer buildings (Bedford, for example) have some very significant (millions of dollars) costs to the taxpayer in their budgets, but these costs are subtracted before computing their cost per student, making the latter not as representative for comparison as you might imagine.    In FY 2012 Amherst had about $600k in debt service payments.  Bedford had $4.6 million, and Merrimack had $1.9 million.  So it would seem that if we want to draw more meaningful comparisons in spending per student, that we should take the actual bottom line budget and divide by the total enrollment.

I’ll take a second to point out that the growth of our education taxes for all education spending in Amherst (not just Amherst School District) has increased much more slowly than our neighboring towns, which I showed before.  That is to say, yes your school tax bill has gone up, but considerably more slowly than if you were in some of our neighboring towns.

Growth in the total locally raised education spending, referenced to FY 2011 for Amherst, Bedford, and Merrimack.

Growth in the total locally raised education spending, referenced to FY 2011 for Amherst, Bedford, and Merrimack.

Before I get to our spending per student numbers, I want to quickly touch on the special education spending issue that I had raised earlier this year.  Previously I pointed out the differences in the fractions of our budgets that Amherst, Bedford, and Merrimack spend on special education.  Now you might think that by comparing line item to line item in the various district budgets, that the numbers would be directly comparable.  I certainly did.  They aren’t.  Here’s the difference.  Amherst includes benefits in their special education budget section.  Bedford and Merrimack don’t.  So when we take benefits out of our special education budget, we get the following numbers which we can compare, and they paint a very different picture than before.

District Special Education % of Budget (without benefits)
Amherst 11.2
Bedford 15.7
Merrimack 15.1

Now, to get to our spike in per-student elementary education spending back in FY 2011.  The one where we jumped to $4533 over the state average in a year.  In that year we saw our elementary school enrollment drop from 710 to 629.  That’s 81 students, or an 11.4% drop.  Inconveniently, they didn’t all fall out of the same grade, so this has made it somewhat difficult to make rapid adjustments to staffing.  But we have been making staffing adjustments.  We just can’t make them as fast as the enrollment has changed.

And yes, this will hit the middle school shortly, but we are making adjustments.  Draft 1 of next year’s budget will be presented at next month’s school board meeting and we should know more then.

Amherst Property Taxes and Inflation

One of the questions I was asked after yesterday’s post on property tax growth was on how inflation factors into the picture.  My original intent was to measure the actual change in property tax bills, but it is instructive to add the inflation perspective.  There are a handful of inflation rate calculators available online that will let you make adjustments for constant dollars.  Since my property tax information starts in FY 2001, I’ll use constant 2001 dollars here.

Inflation essentially measures the change in buying power of a currency over time.  That is, if something cost $1 in 2001, because of inflation it will cost a few cents more in 2002, and so on.  You’re probably already made the observation that things cost more at the store, this is generally due to inflation.  How it impacts you depends on whether your income has kept pace with inflation or not.  The easiest way to look at this is to put together a table of multipliers for each year, referenced to 2001 (graphed below).  This will allow us to recalculate the tax data from yesterday in terms of constant 2001 dollars.

Inflation multipliers to determine constant 2001 dollars in US currency.

Inflation multipliers to determine constant 2001 dollars in US currency.

The overall effect of taking inflation into account, particularly when it is increasing as we see above, is to shrink the value of the dollars being spent in time.  What it allows us to see is whether the changes in the numbers come from changes in the value of the dollar, or whether actual spending has changed.  Given what we know about health insurance costs in our school district, we should not be surprised to see that actual spending increases here.

Last time I broke out the education dollars for the towns that were raised by local property taxes and we looked at how they changed over time.  Below is that information replotted in constant 2001 dollars.  Amherst has a growth factor of about 1.7, Bedford hits 2.4, and Merrimack 2.2.

Locally raised education spending by town in constant 2001 dollars.

Locally raised education spending by town in constant 2001 dollars.

Likewise, here is the total property tax growth of the towns in constant 2001 dollars.  Again, very similar to yesterday’s plot.  Amherst comes in at a real growth factor of just under 1.4, Bedford at 1.7, and Merrimack at just over 1.4.

Changes in the total property tax burdens of Amherst, Bedford, and Merrimack in constant 2001 dollars.

Changes in the total property tax burdens of Amherst, Bedford, and Merrimack in constant 2001 dollars.

Amherst Property Tax Review

One of the issues that I hear often in talking with people in town is about how much our taxes in Amherst have gone up in recent years.  So it made sense to me to dig deeper into this issue to better understand what has been taking place and put some numbers on it.

Lucky enough, the information that we’re after is collected by the state and made available online.  The tax rate graph for Amherst below shows that the largest property tax impact in our town budget comes from the cost of operating our schools.  This is not uncommon in New Hampshire where we’re largely on the hook for costs of what we do in our towns.  Since they are the biggest piece of the tax pie and since I’m chairing the Ways and Means committee for the Amherst School District this year, let’s start with education taxes.

Amherst tax rates by fiscal year.

Amherst tax rates by fiscal year.

Before we get too far into what these numbers mean, I think it makes sense to put our numbers in perspective, so I gathered information for Bedford and Merrimack as well as for Amherst.  Interestingly, the state does not split the Amherst School District and Amherst’s share of the Souhegan Cooperative School District apart, so the Amherst numbers that we will go over here are our complete numbers for the town’s education costs.

So let’s start by looking at local education property tax rates.  Below are the mil rates (tax rate per $1000 of property valuation) for education in the three towns since fiscal year 2001.  Note that the rates jump all over the place, particularly for Amherst.  This requires some explanation.

LocalTaxRates

Local tax rates for Amherst, Bedford, and Merrimack.

There’s a very good, but slightly odd, reason for these jumpy numbers.  This tax rate is calculated by first determining the amount of money that needs to be raised from the budget and then dividing that number into the total value of taxable property in town.  Take away a factor of 1000 and you get your mil rate.  Now every few years the town pays for an assessment of property in the town.  Either the people who do the assessments have some interesting formulas or the towns do a very poor job of estimating property values between valuations, because we see some pretty big jumps in the total value of taxable property in town.  Whenever you see a big change in valuation, the tax rate changes in the opposite direction (that is, when they consider that your house is much more valuable than it was the year before, your tax rate goes down, and vice versa).

The graph below shows the total assessed value of taxable property in each town by fiscal year.   I find it somewhat odd that property has increased in assessed value in spite of the real estate market downturn, but this doesn’t really affect your taxes, only the tax rate you pay, which as you saw above, is constantly adjusted to raise exactly the budgeted funds.

NAV

Total property assessment by year for Amherst, Bedford, and Merrimack.

Now “budgeted funds” is the key term here, and combining the information in two graphs above lets us come up with the total amount of property tax money each town raises to cover their local education budgets.  And this is the information that we need to understand how people’s actual local tax bills are changing over time.   Remember that the amount raised by property taxes is the number that is left over after subtracting any state and/or federal money from the school budgets that we vote on in March.  I have graphed these numbers below for clarity.  When it comes to Bedford’s numbers, it can be useful to recall that they opened their new high school in 2007.

LocalEducationRevenues

Taxpayer raised local education dollars for Amherst, Bedford, and Merrimack.

With all this in mind, we now can calculate, on average, how much our education property taxes have gone up with respect to FY 2001 numbers.  For Amherst, the answer is they have increased, on average, by a factor of 2.2 (as of FY 2012), and we are the lowest of the three towns.  The graph below has the details.

ActualTaxRateGrowth

Growth in the total locally raised education spending, referenced to FY 2011 for Amherst, Bedford, and Milford.

While this shows the bulk of the spending in each town, it doesn’t tell the whole tax burden story.  What about everything else included in property taxes?  It is easiest to just look at the total tax burden.  We don’t really need to look at the rates, since a decrease in the rate doesn’t necessarily mean a decrease in spending.  So below is the total property tax burden for each town, which includes the local education numbers from above, but also the state property taxes, and other town and county spending for Amherst, Bedford, and Merrimack.

TotalTaxLiability

Total tax liability for Amherst, Bedford, and Merrimack.

To put numbers on growth, we can normalize these to 2001 as we did before with the education budgets.  It is interesting to see that Merrimack’s growth is reasonably close to ours, with a few years of exceptions.  Compared to the other towns, Amherst looks fiscally responsible.

TotalTaxGrowth

Growth in the total tax liability for Amherst, Bedford, and Merrimack.

So now we have the answer that we set out to find.  Although our actual school tax rates have more than doubled, our total tax burden in Amherst has, on average, increased by a slightly smaller factor of about 1.8 since FY2001.  Note that this is averaged over the whole town and how this impacts your household tax bill has much to do with how your property’s valuation has changed compared to the rest of the town.

Budget Review Slides Submitted to Administration and School Board

With all the work I’ve done to better understand how and where we spend money in Amherst School District, it was time to do something with it and press for some changes.  My intention is to refocus the budgeting process before it happens, rather than respond to it once it comes out.  I’m hoping the proactive approach is the more effective one. That in mind, I summarized my budget evaluation (which I’ve done in bits and pieces here) and questions/recommendations in some slides and met on Wednesday (7/17/13) with the Superintendent (Peter Warburton), the Business Administrator (Betty Shankel), and the ASD School Board Chair (Peg Bennett) to review them.

It was a good meeting, the contents were well received, and once they have fully digested them, we will meet again with a larger group to review them and their responses to the questions and recommendations. I think I got my point across that I was there for a cooperative meeting and that I wanted to drive the discussion on where W&M sees issues that need to be addressed earlier in the process than has been typical.  We are supposed to be the check/balance in this process and the points made were, I think, well received (we were encouraged to push them on spending issues).  I openly invited them to suggest other metrics to judge value if they feel I have selected incorrect ones (mostly because last year’s W&M committee meetings did not produce any metrics I was looking for).  And in general, that if they feel that the numbers for certain spending areas are justified (special education and teaching coaches come to mind)  in how they deviate from state averages or other town numbers, that the case needs to be made for them.

These are the slides.  I talked over them quite a bit in the meeting, but hopefully the messages are clear.