Monthly Archives: December 2016

Prepare for TRSD’s Budget Public Hearing and Deliberative Session

Last year’s Public Hearing on Timberlane’s proposed budget was a lively one thanks to the probing efforts of Leon Artus from Atkinson.  Mark  Jan. 12 (Thursday) in your calendar to attend the Public Hearing on the proposed 17/18 operating budget – the budget that could  give Sandown and Danville a 9% school tax increase and Plaistow an 8% increase.

You might also like to read the rules around what can and can’t be done during Timberlane’s Deliberative Session which will be held on Feb. 9th.  There are a number of popular misconceptions around Deliberative Sessions which this article from the Local Government Center corrects in a quick read:   16 Things Every Citizen Should Know About Town Meeting

Step up!

For those who would like to try their hand at making things better in our district, there are four elective openings:

  • Timberlane District Moderator
  • School board representative from Atkinson
  • School board representative from Danville
  • School board representative from Plaistow

The filing period is Jan. 25- Feb 3.  Simply go to the SAU office between those dates from 8:30 am to 4 pm to register your candidacy. SAU 55, 30 Greenough Road, Plaistow, NH 03865 – Phone: 603-382-6119 – Fax: 603-382-3334 – Email: SAU55@Timberlane.net

Citizen petitioned warrant articles can also be submitted to the SAU office until the end of business on Jan. 10.  All you need is 25 signatures from registered voters from any of the four towns in the school district and your warrant will be put on the school district ballot for consideration by voters. I’ve done my duty this year by asking voters to instruct TRSB to change auditors every four years, which is only the most fundamental good business practice.  I do not know when our auditors were last changed but the Department of Revenue went back as far as their records go on this (2007) and Timberlane had the same auditor then as we have now. We deserve better business practice than that.

 

 

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Taxpayer as Bottomless ATM

Guest Contribution by Arthur Green with D. Green

We are frequently reminded at this time of year by those who don’t want to face the truth that it is far too soon to begin discussing the tax impact of the freshly minted Timberlane  budget for next year. So, let’s do it.

Here’s the bad news – and it’s bad. The bill Timberlane will send to towns in October 2017 will be up a stunning 7.9% district wide.  Each town, of course, will have its own specific impact as you can see below.

table-tax-impact-fy2017

There are lots of caveats and qualifications to these numbers which you can read at the bottom of this post but, even though these figures are preliminary, it is still meaningful – even critical – to discuss  the tax impact now.

The 2017/18 budget voted by Timberlane’s budget committee represents a planning baseline with a specific set of assumptions.  By approving the proposed budget to move forward to public hearing, Budcom is saying that, with the best information we have today, they are willing to endorse and recommend this as an appropriate financial commitment for our communities –  an (average) 7.9% district-wide tax increase in the coming year.

Members of Budcom may say in response that they did not know the tax impacts of their recommendation.  Well, shame on them. They need to be held accountable for not insisting on having that information for their deliberation.  The information already available to the budget committee as of their last deliberation on Dec. 8 is sufficient to estimate the tax impact, obviously, because I’ve done it for a few years running.

Apart from tax impact, there are other critical pieces of information your budget committee representatives did not consider necessary to demand before rushing pell-mell to approve the 2017/18 budget:

  • Forecast of enrollment by professional outside consulting organization (NESDEC), available at no charge to the district
  • Detailed staffing information – requested by Budcom, but not delivered by the administration.  Budcom request vanished without a trace or a protest.
  • Revenue budget, required to evaluate the tax impact of the proposed budget – provided by the administration at the final budcom meeting, but not discussed until after approval of the proposed budget (watch the meeting).
  • Meaningful deliberation of the complete budget proposal..  The Draft 1 proposal presented Nov. 22 had so many acknowledged (by the administration) holdover items which needed to be removed that there was no substantive discussion.  The draft which was deliberated at the next (and final) meeting on Dec 8 had been posted to the district website the day prior, so there was virtually no opportunity for a Budcom member (or member of the public) to do detailed line item analysis.  The actual deliberation occupied less than 2 hours on Dec. 8, and removed a pitiful $27,000 of travel and conference expenses from the $71.5 million budget before voting to move it to public hearing.

Sandown taxpayers have just had to swallow a 9.1% (average) increase in the education portion of our property tax bills.  Our Budcom reps Lee Dube and Alan David, acting on our behalf, have agreed to 9.8% for the upcoming year.

How much is enough?  Do we even need to ask?

 

Caveats and Qualifications – much can, and will, change

As usual, I do not deal with the property tax rates ($ per thousand).  These rates fluctuate for many reasons.  But if the apportionment bill from the school district to the town goes up from $10 million to $11 million, then the town tax collector will need to get 10% more money from each property taxpayer (on average).

The budget impact I have calculated above does not include warrant articles, the principal one being the support workers collective agreement.  If approved by voters, this would add to the budget and its tax impact.  Other  warrant article items could emerge from the school board, as well.

The preliminary amount of the education Adequacy grant from the state is documented on a spreadsheet on the Department of Education website.  The grant will be based on the Average Daily Membership figures for the current (2016/17) year, but these will not be final until fall 2017, so the grant figures are based on a forecast of what the ADM will be.  My personal opinion is that the grant for Sandown will be lower than currently forecast (by the state), and the grants for the other 3 towns will be higher.

The biggest single swing factor affecting our tax burden is the amount of surplus created by underspending the current year (2016/17) budget.  Timberlane’s surplus will become revenue (partially offsetting taxes) in the budget year (2017/18).  The TRSD revenue budget for 2017/18 shows a $1,925,000 surplus carried forward from the year we are in now.  However, for the last 2 years the surplus has been about $3 million.  An extra million dollars of surplus would somewhat mitigate the tax increases.  For example, with $3 million in surplus instead of $1.9 million, the Sandown tax increase could be under 6% instead of 9.8%.

There are lots factors still unknown at this point, but what you should remember when next you vote, is that Timberlane’s budget committee thought a 7.8% district-wide tax increase was a reasonable burden to impose on you- without even caring to know it.

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The Responsible Choice Default Budget: Draft 2

Guest Contribution by Arthur Green

The School Board at their Dec 15 meeting struggled with the responsibility of requiring the administration to provide the 2017/18 Default Budget in line item detail.

I did what I could at that meeting to be of assistance.

I’ve constructed my own Responsible Choice Default Budget for 2017/18. Its bottom line is a whopping $1.38 million LESS than Timberlane’s official  default budget.

  • The Responsible Choice Default Budget:  70,177,378
  • TRSD’s 17/18 Default budget:  71,559,011
  • TRSD’s proposed 17/18 budget: 71,528,093

As has been the case for the two previous years and now this coming year, if you want to vote against the proposed budget, you get a default budget which is higher.

Some highlights of my Responsible Choice Default Budget (Draft Two):

  • Preserves all the contractually binding salary and benefit increases included in the TRSD default budget
  • Current with all changes in the approved (Draft 4) proposed budget as well as the Default budget as approved by the school board on Thursday
  • The one-time expenditures which have been removed are listed in my Dec. 10 blog: https://timberlaneandsandown.wordpress.com/2016/12/04/the-responsible-choice-default-budget/      However, the software licensing fee for Infinite Visions product has been put back in because the administration told the school board that this is a recurring, not a one-time charge.  Donna Green has a Right To Know for the contract documents pending, which will help us to confirm that this is correct.
  • The district’s proposed budget has, in places, requested less money than in their default budget.  My Responsible Default Budget carries forward this extra $610,000 from their default budget, which would be available for transfer of appropriation to mitigate the other areas in which the Responsible Choice default budget is lower than what the district is requesting in its proposed budget.
  • Special Ed is actually slightly higher in the Responsible Choice Default Budget than in the TRSD Proposed (not Default) budget.
  • Some people are pretending to have difficulty distinguishing between Repair/Maintenance versus Capital Improvements.  No such difficulty exists when allocating Capital costs to the towns on the annual tax allocation. Even after Capital Improvements are removed, the district still has $440,000 for Repair and Maintenance, virtually the same as the current year.  Replacement Equipment in my default budget is $546,000, which is down somewhat from this current year budget of $609,000 because I removed items which were presented to last year’s Budcom as exceptional needs.  The prior year replacement budget was $539,000, so the Responsible Choice Default budget is a return to and slightly better than the previous level.

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School Board Members Making Public Comment TRSD Style

Cutting the audio transmission during meetings is a favorite power play by the past and current chairmen of our school board.  At the Dec. 15 school board meeting, Chairman Bealo cut the mic on me during the public comment section of the meeting (and later on during board business, too). For my loyal readers outside of New Hampshire, public comment is a time at the beginning of public meetings for members of the public to speak to the board. Everyone has a right to make public comment, but my comments are special. They are the only ones subject to censorship. I must say, it does rather give me a big head.

That evening, though, another school board member wanted to horn in on my specialness. Danville’s Stefanie Dube  used public comment to get her concerns about Achieve 3000 out in the open.  The agenda, you see, is controlled by Superintendent Metzler and Mr. Bealo, so it’s no wonder they do not want any discussion of Achieve 3000.  It would be impossible to avoid public discussion of Mrs. Metzler’s previously undisclosed involvement with the company that we have recently spent 183,400 with and with which we have budgeted to spend another $100,000 – also previously undisclosed.

I discovered the district was planning to roll out Achieve 3000 to the elementary level (at a cost of $100,000) only thanks to Right to Know information from TRSD that I requested concerning our purchase of Achieve 3000.  This information included emails that disclosed the whole, deceptive story. But I digress.

Here is public comment from the Timberlane Regional School Board meeting of Dec. 15, 2016. Please don’t miss Arthur Green’s comments about the default budget. Those are pretty special, too.  Behold your board in action.

This is the government you have.  It becomes the government you deserve when you do nothing about it.

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TRSD Default Budget AGAIN Larger than Proposed Budget

At Thursday night’s raucous school board meeting wherein Mr. Bealo cut the audio feed to the public twice, the board voted to add $40,000 back into the default budget.

This conveniently made the default budget $37,000 higher than the proposed budget.

Timberlane’s beleaguered taxpayers will be acutely aware than this is the third year in a row the district has given you no choice but to vote for the proposed budget.

I have been calling for a full accounting of the default budget by line item so I can understand how a default budget can possibly be higher than a proposed budget that is going up by 2%.

The SAU says they don’t have a line item version of the default budget. Your school board actually voted AGAINST requiring the SAU to provide one.  Stefanie Dube (Danville) and I were the only members of the board to want the SAU to demonstrate in specific detail how the default number was derived. (Sherman was absent during this vote.  Sapia abstained.)

This is how well your representatives safeguard your money and respect your right to an actual choice at the voting booth.

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More Games and Power Plays at TRSB

Donna Green <donnagre@gmail.com>

9:04 AM (2 minutes ago)

to Susan, Gregory, Dan, Kelly, Robert, Jack, TRSD, Stefanie
Fellow Board Members,
Here is an email chain between me and Chairman Bealo that will be showing up in the correspondence folder.
Donna
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Donna Green <donnagre@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, Dec 14, 2016 at 1:08 PM
Subject: Re: function/object code default budget summary demand

To: Peter Bealo <pbealo@comcast.net>

When did the BOARD vote to give you the authority to do what you are threatening?
TITLE LXII
CRIMINAL CODE
CHAPTER 642
OBSTRUCTING GOVERNMENTAL OPERATIONS

Section 642:1

 642:1 Obstructing Government Administration. –
I. A person is guilty of a misdemeanor if that person uses intimidation, actual or threatened force or violence, simulated legal process, or engages in any other unlawful conduct with a purpose to hinder or interfere with a public servant, as defined in RSA 640:2, II, performing or purporting to perform an official function or to retaliate for the performance or purported performance of such a function.

On Wed, Dec 14, 2016 at 12:39 PM, <pbealo@comcast.net> wrote:
To avoid lowering myself to your level of discourse, I will not be responding to this and any future message written in this tone.
In the future, if you continue to be unable to control yourself, please do not copy or write directly to district personnel. Doing so once more will cause me to tell them to send your notes straight to Trash.
Peter Bealo

From: “Donna Green” <donnagre@gmail.com>
To: “Peter Bealo” <pbealo@comcast.net>
Sent: Wednesday, December 14, 2016 12:20:56 PM
Subject: Re: function/object code default budget summary demand

Why on earth should this not simply be forthcoming?
The BOARD is expected to vote on this at tomorrow’s meeting.  I’m requesting the information I need to give an informed vote.
If the board votes to get the information I am requesting, would you then delay asking for a vote on the default until we’ve all had a chance to review the information?  Or are you setting the board up to look like irresponsible zombies?
I heard Dr. Metzler say in the SAU office yesterday, “If it doesn’t exist, don’t give it to her.”
Are you saying the information I want does exist, but you won’t give it to me before tomorrow’s meeting?
I genuinely want an answer to that question because there are a few selectmen who aren’t going to be happy if the answer is yes.

On Wed, Dec 14, 2016 at 11:32 AM, <pbealo@comcast.net> wrote:

I will be asking if the BOARD requires such a document for their review. If the BOARD requires it, then it will be provided.

From: “Donna Green” <donnagre@gmail.com>
To: “Peter Bealo” <pbealo@comcast.net>, “Earl Metzler” <earl.metzler@timberlane.net>
Cc: “Lynne Blaisdell” <lblaisdell@sandown.us>, “Shawn O’Neil” <shawn_oneil@mail.rit.edu>, selectmen@atkinson-nh.gov
Sent: Wednesday, December 14, 2016 9:42:10 AM
Subject: function/object code default budget summary demand

Dec. 14, 2016

Dear Mr. Bealo and Dr. Metzler:

The school board is being required to revisit the default budget at the Dec. 15 school board meeting as indicated in this email sent by SAU55 personnel Mrs. Belcher on Dec. 8:

Hello Board members,

Please be advised that upon review of the approved default budget after Tuesday’s meeting, a technical error was found in that the $40,000 for the sound study at the PAC should have been removed from the 2017-18 proposed budget; not the default budget.

Chairman Bealo will allow for board action at the December 15th board meeting under the budget update agenda item to rectify this error. The correct default budget number should be: $71,559,011.

Thank you,

Cathy

Since school board members are charged by the law to study, review and determine to be correct the default budget and so declare under penalty of perjury, I am demanding the default budget in all detail by line item ( function/object code) be delivered to me via email no later than 4 pm today, Dec. 14, 2016.

This is my fifth request for this information.  My previous efforts are listed as follows:

  • email to you, Dr. Metzler and Mrs. Belcher dated Dec. 11
  • email to you dated Dec. 12
  • phone message to George Stokinger Dec 12
  • visit to SAU office Dec. 13 at 1:45 pm where Mr. Stokinger denied my request in person

The summarized changes as presented to the board at the Dec. 5th meeting show that we have not fulfilled our legal obligations under RSA 40:13, IX b and I have no intention of compounding this failure to comply with the law at the Dec. 15 meeting.

I want to be perfectly clear that I expect you to provide me with this information without delay or excuse by email by 4 pm today. I will take your failure to do so as obstruction of my elected duties to the people of Sandown.

Donna Green

Sandown representative to the Timberlane Regional School Board

603-974-0758

cc: Sandown Board of Selectmen

Danville Board of Selectmen

Atkinson Board of Selectmen

Plaistow Board of Selectmen

Needless to say, the information I have been trying so very hard to obtain has not been forthcoming.  I filed yet another Right to Know requested yesterday afternoon.  Same old.  Same old.  Reassuring, isn’t it, that your tax dollars are being safeguarded by Mr. Bealo and our SAU.

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There’s a New Educator in Town

Announcing the formation of the School District Governance Association of New Hampshire

Thank you to the Eagle Tribune for solid coverage of this new and promising organization:

Green Creates School Governance Group

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Concord, NH Dec. 12, 2016 –

School board and school budget committee members currently have few independent resources to assist them in improving the governance and budgeting of their districts.

The School District Governance Association of New Hampshire (SDGA NH) has been created as a resource devoted entirely to educating and empowering elected school district officials so they can effectively assert their lawful authority and be responsive to their electorate.

SDGA NH is a forum of experienced elected officials committed to:

  • Educating elected school district officials as to their proper role and responsibilities
  • Promulgating best practices in good governance and prudent budgeting
  • Formulating model school district policies so boards will now have an independent, alternative resource
  • Proposing and monitoring legislation that enhances local control in education and openness in administration.

Too often school district elected officials abdicate their lawful authority to hired administrators and entrenched interests,” says SDGA President, Donna Green. “SDGA’s mission is to move the balance of power back to elected representatives for the ultimate benefit of our children’s education.”

The Association meets on the first Saturday of the month in Concord. Voting membership is open to past or present elected officials with fiduciary responsibility over a school district budget. Non-voting membership is also available for those who share our mission. For more information please visit our website, SDGANH.org.

Contact: Donna Green

President, 603-513-1647

SDGANH.org

SDGAofNH@gmail.com

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