Last night’s school budget committee meeting was a disappointing display, but a revealing one. Like school board meetings, substantive issues are kept off the agenda despite members’ agenda requests. This may sound radical and insulting, but I believe that agendas are deliberately kept to insubstantial issues so, with a budget committee in chaos and a school board dwelling on irrelevancies, the administration can run the show.
Last night Mr. Cantone, new Budcom member from Plaistow, expressed frustration that so much of the discussion consisted of arguments that would be settled or moot if there were an established process in place. Mrs. Rothwell, the chairman, replied that there used to be a process but now members want more information. That was a most candid statement. The process has long been a giant rubber stamp. Now some members from Sandown aren’t happy with that and want more financial information in a form they can actually analyse and study.
For the third time, Ms. Gorman from Sandown spoke about the need to have all budget information delivered in live spreadsheets so it can be parsed at will – and as is the case with all town budget committee practices. Arthur Green moved to have monthly expenditure reports provided in live spreadsheet format. In a 3 -7 vote, the motion was defeated with some saying that expenditures weren’t the committee’s business and others saying a live spreadsheet is not a good idea. Either way, the committee as a whole, for whatever reason, voted to keep themselves ignorant and powerless. I excuse the new members because they don’t yet know how little useful information they will ultimately receive, but the members past their first year know better.
Even Michelle O’Neil of Danville expressed frustration with the absence of budget work going on at the meeting. She should be asking the chair why the agenda was as thin as Gulag gruel. On July 31 Mr. Green requested numerous budget related issues be added to the September 11th agenda:
- that the committee receive monthly financial reports;
- discussion of comparative district information gathered by Mr. Green;
- notice to change the by-laws to allow more meetings throughout the spring and summer;
- discussion of segregating the budgeting for full-time kindergarten.
Mr. Green also endorsed Ms. Gorman’s request to examine current email policy and Mr. Grosky’s request to discuss a report on overexpenditures in 2013-2014.
Without explanation, only Mr. Grosky’s agenda request was included on the agenda. This is the same old game the school board plays with their agendas…..dissident members and their constitutents’ concerns are frozen out of the agenda
67 million dollars are at stake here. There are just five precious meetings left (with a sixth scheduled for Dec. 23 which will inevitably be cancelled). A majority last night also defeated a motion to add another meeting to the schedule. There is no way possible the committee will be able to interview the necessary department heads as they discussed doing in the spring meeting . Schedules for interviews haven’t even been made or circulated. Surprised? I predict the next meeting will be taken up with arguing about whether or not to have department heads in and if so, who.
A Budget Committee floundering without direction – unwilling to add meetings, unwilling to demand the very basic spreadsheet tools that are required to do any serious budget analysis, unwilling to stick to decisions made in previous meetings and accepting of vacuous agendas that shut out the requests of some hard-working committee members, this is what you have and it does not work to the taxpayer’s advantage. The Sandown reps, Gorman and Green, are doing their best and a few others can be excused for being new –my first year was a total loss — but the majority should be keenly aware that they are not doing what the taxpayers of this district expect.
In the good news department, Arthur Green will be presenting a Town Hall on the forthcoming school budget on Dec. 7, 2014 at Sandown Town Hall. There you will be able to see the presentation on comparable school districts, their budgets and academic results – all with less money than we extract from our district taxpayers every year. It will be even more explosive than what we revealed at last year’s Deliberative Session.
Also last night,Chairman Diane Rothwell announced her resignation from the budget committee effective September 29th. She is a kind-hearted person with a long association with the district and I wish her well in her move. Now it is time for some new, independent-minded leadership to take command of this perennially ineffectual committee that has collectively sunk into irrelevancy.
In case I haven’t yet proven my point, here is the next School Board agenda – an agenda so light and superfluous it could waft away in a cold draft. There should be, but isn’t, an item about the unanticipated extra return of surplus from HealthTrust that we’ve learned will be coming this month on top of the $400,000 we’ve already received. The only issue of substance will be the policy discussion where the Policy Committee will drive through objectionable changes to two policies – one to the now famous policy DBJ about transfers of appropriations changing from $5,000 to a whopping $25,000, and a vendor relations policy aimed squarely at me for calling the auditor to find out why our annual report was 7 months late.
Regular Meeting – 7:30 PM
**The Board will meet from 7-7:30 pm for an appreciation reception for Michael
Mascola who recently tendered his resignation from the School Board effective
1. Call to Order – Chair
2. Roll Call – Clerk
3. Pledge of Allegiance
4. Approval of Minutes
a. August 28, 2014
b. September 4, 2014
5. Delegations or Individuals
6. Current Business
a. Germany Trip Presentation* – INFORMATIONAL (15 minutes)
b. Donation/ExxonMobil – ACTION (5 minutes)
c. Policies – ACTION (10 minutes)
d. Summer Programs* – INFORMATIONAL (15 minutes)
e. NHSBA Resolutions – INFORMATIONAL/ACTION (10 minutes)
7. Administrator’s Report
a. Update on School Activities – INFORMATIONAL
8. Personnel Report
9. Committee Report/Reports of the School Board
11.Vendor and Payroll Registers
a. Non-public (if needed)