Timberlane Board Rescinds Previous Vote; SAU Board Ignores Urging to Question Budget

I’ve said it before and sadly I will say it again: the next time I praise the Timberlane School Board, someone please hit me with a wet noodle.  Tonight, Oct. 23, in a special meeting, the Timberlane School Board rescinded their vote of last week to recommend that the New Hampshire School Boards Association call for the elimination of the federal Department of Education.  Chairman Collins began the meeting by taking the floor and diving into his own presentation to rebut Mr. Barczak’s presentation of the previous week, for which Mr. Collins was not in attendance.  Mr. Barczak tried to raise a motion to block reconsideration but Mr. Collins refused to cede the floor and continued with his Powerpoint. Afterwards Mr. Barczak countered Mr. Collins’ points and exceptionally lively discussion ensued.  It should be noted that the special meeting announcement did not provide notice of a reconsideration which, though not strictly required, would have been more forthright.

The Timberlane Regional School Board will meet on Wednesday, October 23, 2013 immediately following the 7:00 pm SAU Board meeting at the Superintendent’s Office, 30 Greenough Road, Plaistow, NH. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss their NHSBA Resolutions voted on at their October 17, 2013 Board meeting.

The word “propaganda” was used numerous times with respect to Mr. Barczak’s material which was highly insulting to him and all those who believe, as I do, that federal involvement in education is a hindrance to achieving our own excellence. One member expressed the opinion that politics should not be part of school board matters to which Mr. Barczak responded that if we don’t change the politics, we can’t change our outcomes, and our outcomes nationally are flat lined academic achievement in the high school level for decades.  Well, Mr. Barczak, it was a fight worth having and my hat is off to you. [See TRSB Votes on Eliminating the DOE for his presentation.]

Board Ignores Request to Question Budget

In matters closer to my heart,  a staggering $93,000 has been added to the SAU’s proposed and default (2014-2015) budget for employee insurance benefits.  I made an impassioned plea to the Timberlane members of the SAU board to question Mr. Stokinger as to how that $93,000 figure was determined.  There has been no public explanation and not one of them asked for details.  They accept that it’s perfectly reasonable to budget for every single SAU employee to now take health insurance and their intellectual curiosity stopped dead at the idea of asking how much insurance costs per employee, how many employees currently take the insurance, and how much the buyout is for those who don’t take the insurance.  Why question something you know nothing about?  It is only other people’s money after all.

The SAU has 13 employees and a budget  now of $288,000 for health insurance for 2014-2015.  This is up 48% over one year. Dr. Metzler has said repeatedly that this increase is because the SAU budget must now stand alone rather than being a line item in the school districts budgets.  He says this without blushing.  How can a separate corporation’s budget be affected by going before the voters as a stand alone budget rather than being parsed into two different school district budgets as an untouchable line item?  The answer is, that it isn’t affected at all.  The SAU is telling the taxpayers that they now have to budget for the worst case scenario of every single SAU employee taking insurance benefits.  Why didn’t they have to do this before even to a small extent, and how is that possibly related to the budget now having to stand on its own?   If you think there is something else going on here, you’re not alone.

We’re told repeatedly that if the money is not spent on insurance it will be moved forward to the next budget as a surplus. That sounds reassuring, doesn’t it.  Let me remind you that this is a bottom line budget and money from any line can be used for any other line.  Furthermore, once funds become a surplus they then become part of the entire bottom line budget the next year and open for use as salary increases and anything else a growing, “understaffed” bureaucracy requires.  By the way, the SAU passed their proposed budget tonight, up 10% over this year’s approved budget, and there is no other opportunity to change either the proposed or the default budget.*

The SAU board did us all a disservice tonight, but they did do one thing for us.  They showed us what a “respectful” budget looks like and how a respectful board responds to someone asking some fundamental questions.

*Let me explain why I say there is no other opportunity to change the budget.  There will be a public meeting held on the SAU budget on Nov. 13.  As long as anyone I know can remember, the SAU budget has not been substantially changed based on public feedback. The SAU board is not required to change their budget based on the public hearing, and in practice they don’t.

This posting is corrected for some clarification as to budget years from its first posting at midnight Oct.. 23, and to clarify that detailed questions about the $93,000 were not asked. Mr. Barczak and Mr. Mascola did mention the $93,000 increase.  Also added is an explanation of how the public hearing affects the budget.



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Filed under Budget Committee, SAU 55 Issues, SAU petition, School Board Behavior, School Board Issues

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