Information Games at Your SAU

Faithful readers will remember the MS-25 (or DOE-25), the SAU’s official statement to the Department of Education of the school district’s year-end financials.  This form is one way to know what is going on financially with the district. It is also necessary for setting the district towns’ tax rates.

The form was due to the government on September first. It was not filed until some time past mid-October.

Yesterday (Nov 8) Dr. Metzler sent this email to the board:

Good afternoon! Several of you asked questions about this form the other night…and I have been assured that this is the final version of MS 25 for the NHDOE. I am sending it to you now because I intended having it your packets at the last meeting. I simply forgot to include it. I also intended on posting it once you had the final copy. We will be updating the folders later this week. Please direct any questions to Mr. Stokinger regarding this form.

In regards to next year….My hope is that you will have it in your hands at our first meeting in late August prior to the 9/1/2016 deadline.  

Respectfully,

Earl


This message from our superintendent raises a great many issues.

  • The MS-25 should be publicly available to the entire population of the district and not secreted in the  “agenda packets” on a private section of the school board website.
  • Dr. Metzler mentions a “final copy,” “final version.”  School board members signed the MS-25.  This IS the final copy. If anything is changed, those signatures are invalid. So, what is it that is being posted to “Agenda Packets”: the original signed form, or a modified, “final” version?
  • Is Dr. Metzler telling us that despite being 6 weeks late in producing the year-end information, the numbers signed and thereby attested to by the school board members who made the trek into the SAU during business hours on Oct. 13, really weren’t the true and accurate numbers?

Arthur Green has been asking after this form since October 5 because  it also reports a preliminary cost per pupil. At a school board meeting, I asked why this critical report was so very late to be told by our Business Administrator that he has had “many distractions.”

When the MS-25 was finally ready for the board’s signature, Cathy Belcher sent out an email to board members asking them to go into the SAU office on October 13 to sign the document. There was no discussion of the information with the board whatsoever. I did not sign it. Instead, I sent this reply to Ms. Belcher’s request:

I would be happy to assist but as I hope you and Mr. Stokinger are aware, I do not sign things on faith. If the underlying documents can be provided to me in enough time for me to vet and fully understand what my signature is vouching for, then yes; otherwise, my signature will not be forthcoming.

Thank you,
Donna Green

That email was sent October 13. The document was filed with the state some time subsequent. On October 13, Dr. Metzler sent out a note to our district towns apologizing for the delay in getting this information filed and the attendant delayed this caused the towns in setting their tax rates. No explanation for the delay was given but suggesting it would be filed that day.

After that note from Dr. Metzler, Mr. Green asked the Department of Education to provide him with a copy of the form. They unhelpfully directed him to obtain the form from our SAU; however, Mr. Green had already made a formal Right to Know request of TRSD to obtain this public information on October 5  (Link to blog post on this topic).  On Nov. 3 he was finally told by our SAU that the information was available – well past the time the form was filed with the state and well beyond the statutory deadline for providing information as per Right to Know requests, which, for those who don’t know, is immediately when the information is immediately available which it was the moment it was filed with the state.

Hello Mr. Green,

This email serves as notification that the item you requested under RSA 91-A (DOE 25 Form) is available for pick up or inspection at the Superintendent’s Office. There are a total of 27 pages.  The cost for copies associated with right-to-know requests are $.50 per page, thus your total (should you want copies) is $13.50. 

Kindly note our business hours of Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm.

Thank you,

Cathy


On November 6,  I spent well over an hour at the SAU scanning public documents requested by Mr. Green and that have not been given to the board or made public: the staffing report filed to the DOE, the MS-25, and the 2015 NESDEC enrollment projections report. The district wanted to charge me a total of $39.50 for copies of the MS-25, the staffing filing, and the NESDEC enrollment report – all information that should be posted online and available not only to the board but to the public.

District taxpayers should be wondering why your elected officials are not given this information as a regular part of their oversight, and why the SAU thinks it is perfectly acceptable to charge for public information that other districts post to their website. Of course, it will eventually be posted to Timberlane’s website somewhere or other – in a public or private area – but only after it has inconvenienced conscientious citizens and elected officials who care.

Well functioning districts committed to accountability to those they serve automatically post such critical information on their website for the benefit of the public.  Never assume your elected officials are seeing information that you are not.

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5 Comments

Filed under School Board Issues, Taxes, The Mushroom Farm

5 responses to “Information Games at Your SAU

  1. Cathy

    Never assume your elected officials are seeing the information; never assume your elected officials “want” to see/know the information.

  2. I would think that all board members would be requesting a copy of all documents that they sign from now on as simply a cover their butts procedure since you can not trust that what you attest to with your signature is what actually may be turned in to any governing body. It’s like signing a blank check, not a good practice.

  3. mark Acciard

    The District complains about the time and costs of providing info to satisfy RTK requests. Why not simply post the public info on the District website? Budget info, staffing info, salaries, expenses, and the districts checkbook.

    It is all public, and would satisfy most info requests. It would save time and money, What do they have to hide?

    As Ben Franklin once said; Sunlight is the best disinfectant

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