Violation of RSA 32:5 Pinocchio Academy Continued

This is a continuation of the post of March 13, 2014 entitled, Pinocchio Academy and the Mushroom Farm.
Here is an email exchange between me and the school board chairman, Rob Collins, after I discovered a significant change in the Sandown kitchen renovation warrant article as presented at Public Hearing in January, and then as presented at  Deliberative in February.  RSA 32:5 prohibits warrant article changes between Public Hearing and Deliberative, especially those concerning costs.
Feb 7, 2014
Mr. Collins:
I noted that the warrant for the Sandown kitchen was changed from public hearing to Deliberative.
Why was the cost increased?

As these changes were not discussed at the public hearing and did not arise out of the hearing, could someone kindly help me understand the RSAs that allow this change?

I’ve not before encountered a warrant article change between public hearing and deliberative that did not arise from public hearing. How does that work?

Thanks for helping me understand the process.
Mrs. Green
————————————————————————-
Mr. Collins replied on Feb. 8, (PH being Public Hearing and DS being Deliberative Session):
Typo on the slide at the PH.

What was presented at the DS was consistent with everything else (what we approved in a Board meeting, handouts at the PH and everything at the DS, not to mention the handouts at various BOS meetings).
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I replied on Feb. 8:
Mr. Collins:
THESE ARE SERIOUSLY DIFFERENT VERSIONS.  PLEASE EXPLAIN THE LEGALITY IN THIS SUBSTITUTION OF ONE ARTICLE FOR ANOTHER. I consider this a very serious matter and I expect a serious and studied answer.

At the Jan 14 public hearing on the budget, Warrant Article 5 read as follows:

  • Shall the voters of the Timberlane Regional School District raise and appropriate the sum of $335,412 to renovate the kitchen at Sandown Central Elementary School and to authorize the District to withdraw up to the sum of $335,412 from the existing School Building Construction, Reconstruction, Capital Improvements and Land Purchase Capital Reserve Fund?  (MAJORITY VOTE REQUIRED)(The funds for this article come from existing money in the District’s Capital Reserve Fund, not from additional taxes.  This article, therefore, will not increase the 2014 tax rate.) 
At the Deliberative this is the version presented:
  • Shall the voters of the Timberlane Regional School District raise and appropriate the sum of $385,412 to renovate the kitchen at Sandown Central Elementary School and to authorize the District to withdraw up to the sum of $335,412 from the existing School Building Construction, Reconstruction, Capital Improvements and Land Purchase Capital Reserve Fund with remaining funds ($50,000) to come from the 2014-2015 operating budget?   (MAJORITY VOTE REQUIRED)
Thank you,
Donna Green
————————————————————————————————
Reply from Mr. Collins, Feb. 8, 2014

Mrs Green,

The warrant as written at the DS is correct and was what was approved by the Board in December.  I assume the slide at the PH was an honest mistake.  There was no “substitution.”

—————————————————————————–

My reply to Mr. Collins, Feb 8, 2014

Mr. Collins,

This is an extremely serious matter and I advise you not to lie to me.

In the tax impact handout Mr. Stokinger presented to the Sandown Board of Selectmen, it showed no tax impact concerning the kitchen.  In the substituted version presented at deliberative, there is obviously a tax impact.

The whole article changed as did its tax impact.  The article presented at deliberative was never discussed by the budget committee and was never seen by the budget committee until deliberative session. Furthermore, I have the handout from the public hearing and the budget committee voted on this version and YOU read the warrant at public hearing.

This was a clear and flagrant substitution and it was absolutely illegal.

Donna Green
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Mr. Collins replies   Feb, 9, 2014 (WA means Warrant Article):
The meeting where the WAs were approved was 1/9.

You can view it here: https://vimeo.com/84140196
The discussion around the SC kitchen WA begins at 1:01:16.
————————————————————————————–
The Vimeo shows the board approving the version that was read at Public Hearing. Because of this, I made an official Right to Know Request on Feb. 8 to get at the bottom of the issue.  (My third in total.  I am now onto my fourth.) The email was address to the entire Budcom and School Board.
Mr. Collins and Dr. Metzler:

This is an official Right to Know request for the following information:

1) Provide the name(s) and title(s) of the individual or individuals who authorized the change of Warrant Article 5, “Sandown Central Kitchen Renovation” from the Jan. 16, 2014 version presented at Public Hearing to the version presented at Deliberative Session on February 6th, 2014.

2) Provide all documents and emails relating to the Deliberative version of Warrant Article 5 to include minutes, memos, emails and any other captured communications such as visual and/or audio recordings. Demonstrate when this version was presented to the Budget Committee and the school board.

The public hearing version of Warrant Article 5 read as follows:

  • Shall the voters of the Timberlane Regional School District raise and appropriate the sum of $335,412 to renovate the kitchen at Sandown Central Elementary School and to authorize the District to withdraw up to the sum of $335,412 from the existing School Building Construction, Reconstruction, Capital Improvements and Land Purchase Capital Reserve Fund?  (MAJORITY VOTE REQUIRED) (The funds for this article come from existing money in the District’s Capital Reserve Fund, not from additional taxes.  This article, therefore, will not increase the 2014 tax rate.)
The Deliberative version read as follows:
  • Shall the voters of the Timberlane Regional School District raise and appropriate the sum of $385,412 to renovate the kitchen at Sandown Central Elementary School and to authorize the District to withdraw up to the sum of $335,412 from the existing School Building Construction, Reconstruction, Capital Improvements and Land Purchase Capital Reserve Fund with remaining funds ($50,000) to come from the 2014-2015 operating budget?   (MAJORITY VOTE REQUIRED)

Donna Green

Member of the Timberlane Budget Committee

__________________________________________________________________________
On Feb 12, Mr. Collins finally gave a full accounting of the history of the changes:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Following is the sequence of events surrounding warrant article 5 (WA 5).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

12/12/2013 Budget Committee meeting.  The Budget Committee approved the 2014-2015 operating budget including the equipment line containing the $50,000 that will be used to purchase equipment for the Sandown Central kitchen.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

12/19/2013 SB meeting.  A draft of WA 5 was presented, the wording was as is below.

Shall the voters of the Timberlane Regional School District raise and appropriate the sum of $385,412 to renovate the kitchen at Sandown Central Elementary School and to authorize the District to withdraw up to the sum of $385,412 from the existing School Building Construction, Reconstruction, Capital Improvements and Land Purchase Capital reserve Fund? (MAJORITY VOTE REQUIRED)(The funds for this article come from existing money in the District’s Capital Reserve Fund, not from additional taxes.  This article, therefore, will not increase the 2014 tax rate.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

1/9/2014 SB meeting.  A draft of WA 5 was presented, the wording was as is below.

Shall the voters of the Timberlane Regional School District raise and appropriate the sum of $385,412 to renovate the kitchen at Sandown Central Elementary School and to authorize the District to withdraw up to the sum of $385,412 from the existing School Building Construction, Reconstruction, Capital Improvements and Land Purchase Capital reserve Fund? (MAJORITY VOTE REQUIRED)(The funds for this article come from existing money in the District’s Capital Reserve Fund, not from additional taxes.  This article, therefore, will not increase the 2014 tax rate.)

After some discussion that is detailed on Vimeo (starting about 1:01:15 https://vimeo.com/84140196) the Board decided to decrease the total in WA 5 from $385.412 to $335,412 fully understanding the remaining $50,000 would be taken from the 2014-2015 operating budget.  We also decreased the amount in WA 4 from $400,000 to $350,000 to be in line with WA 5.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

1/16/2014 Public Hearing.  WA 5 was presented, the wording was as is below.

Shall the voters of the Timberlane Regional School District raise and appropriate the sum of $335,412 to renovate the kitchen at Sandown Central Elementary School and to authorize tha District to withdraw up to the sum of $335,412 from the existing School Building Construction, Reconstruction, Capital Improvements and Land Purchase Capital reserve Fund? (MAJORITY VOTE REQUIRED)(The funds for this article come from existing money in the District’s Capital Reserve Fund, not from additional taxes.  This article, therefore, will not increase the 2014 tax rate.)

After the Public Hearing the SAU contacted district legal counsel on the Board’s behalf.  It came back from them that the best way to present WA 5, given the intent of the School Board, was as was presented at the Deliberative Session.  Please see attached letter.

The School Board must post the final warrant articles “on or before the last Monday in January” (as described in RSA 40:13).  Cathy Belcher sent an email out for the purposes of posting the warrant on 1/27 (the last Monday of January) fulfilling the legal obligation of posting on or before the last Monday in January.

The wording in the posting of the warrant articles on 1/27 for WA 5 was as is below and is identical to the wording presented at the Deliberative Session.

Shall the voters of the Timberlane Regional School District raise and appropriate the sum of $385,412 to renovate the kitchen at Sandown Central Elementary School and to authorize the District to withdraw up to the sum of $335,412 from the existing School Building Construction, Reconstruction, Capital Improvements and Land Purchase Capital Reserve Fund with remaining funds ($50,000) to come from the 2014-15 operating budget? (MAJORITY VOTE REQUIRED)

Recommended by the School Board 8-0

Recommended by the Budget Committee 8-1

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

2/6/2014 Deliberative Session.  WA 5 was presented, the wording was as is below.

Shall the voters of the Timberlane Regional School District raise and appropriate the sum of $385,412 to renovate the kitchen at Sandown Central Elementary School and to authorize the District to withdraw up to the sum of $335,412 from the existing School Building Construction, Reconstruction, Capital Improvements and Land Purchase Capital reserve Fund with remaining funds ($50,000) to come form the 2014-2015 operating budget? (MAJORITY VOTE REQUIRED)

Recommended by the School Board 8-0

Recommended by the Budget Committee 8-1

This is the wording that was approved and recommended by our legal counsel.  This is the wording that was approved by the legislative body at the Deliberative Session and this is the wording that will go on the ballot.

As you can see there is no real substantive difference between the version from the Public Hearing and the version posted on January 27th.  Both versions remove $335,412 from the Capital Reserve Fund and $50,000 is used from the 2014-2015 operating budget reflecting what was decided by the School Board in the 1/9 meeting. Our legal counsel support and recommend this change.

Let me be very clear, the $50,000 from the operating budget is already budgeted for as equipment, went before the budget committee as such and was approved by the budget committee on 12/12/2013.  The Board will use those budgeted funds like we will use any other budgeted funds in the approved operating budget.  The version presented at the Deliberative Session is the same version that was posted 1/27 and is the same version approved by district legal counsel.  This version is a more accurate and transparent description of what we will actually do.

Please do NOT “reply all” if you feel the need to comment or ask additional questions.  Please move through your Chair and do NOT reply to your entire committee.  We have procedures we need to adhere to regarding 91-A, please follow them.

Mr. Spero, if members of your committee have questions that need answering please let me know and I will attempt to address them at your next meeting.  I would also like to add a word of caution in that the purview of the Budget Committee does not include warrant articles and therefore the Budget Committee holds no authority regarding them, in any way.  Please remember that if we do discuss in a meeting.

Mrs. Green, if you still feel the need for us to consider your RTK request please email Dr. Metzler and myself directly.  Otherwise, I will consider this issue closed.

Rob Collins

TRSB Chair

_______________________________________

On Feb 13 I sent this email to the entire budget committee.  It is addressed to the Budcom chairman and reads in part:
Greg,
I would like procedural issues and the WA #5 with  Mr. Collins’ response put on our agenda as an agenda item at our next meeting.  ( “New” or “other” business will not be sufficient.)
Thank you for your kind attention to this,

Donna

____________________________________________________________
Of course this will never be discussed at a Budcom meeting.  Elections have come between and I am no longer on Budcom to pursue violations of the law.  Why does any of this  matter?  Well, apart from the attempt to pass off a violation of the law as a typo, the Budget Committee voted on the  article after Public Hearing.  Those recorded votes were then slapped on a materially different article at Deliberative and represented as our vote! Even apart from misrepresenting the Budget Committee’s vote to the  public, I have learned that it is imperative to jump on seemingly small infractions because they invariably become larger ones.  Here we have a clear violation of state statute.  This was shortly followed by a violation of policy against conflict of interest and nepotism. The School Board will ignore all criticism and the Budget Committee, planted in cool, moist, growing medium, will let them.

RSA 32:5 in part:  II. All purposes and amounts of appropriations to be included in the budget or special warrant articles shall be disclosed or discussed at the final hearing. The governing body or budget committee shall not thereafter insert, in any budget column or special warrant article, an additional amount or purpose of appropriation which was not disclosed or discussed at that hearing, without first holding one or more public hearings on supplemental budget requests for town or district expenditures.

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Filed under Budget Committee, DELIBERATIVE 2014, School Board Behavior

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