How We Practice to Deceive Part II

At Thursday night’s public hearing on Timberlane’s bloated proposed operating budget, Mr. Leon Artus from Atkinson and Arthur Green from Sandown asked some perceptive questions. Not a single member of the budget committee could answer them.  They were as basic as you can get, too.

Among the things asked after were:

  • the number of staff budgeted for in the 17-18 budget, as well as whether the budget included vacant positions*
  • what enrollment projections for 2017/18 were considered in preparing the budget.
  • the number of children in full-time kindergarten paying tuition

School board member, Stefanie Dube (Danville) happened to have a sheet with full-time kindergarten details. I knew, and said at the hearing, that this sheet did not report the number of children who pay tuition. This salient detail has not been disclosed by the SAU, despite many requests by elected officials for this information.

The chairman of the Timberlane Budget Committee, Mr. Lee Dube (no relation to Stefanie)  couldn’t answer the questions either, but assured Mr. Artus and Mr. Green that the budget committee did review what was asked after and that he, Mr. Dube, would send them the responsive information the next day.

The next day Mr. Dube did send  Artus and Green links to the information on the budcom site. The only problem is that there is no information on the budcom site that responds to the questions.  For example, here’s the link which Mr. Dube provided for staffing information.  This folder contains no files more recent than January 2016 – a whole year ago.  There is zero information about staffing plans for the proposed budget year.

Similarly, the link responding to the question about enrollment projections contained only the annual reports of actual enrollment, with no projections for the budget year.

The budcom has no idea the number of full-time equivalent staff in the 17-18 budget.  Neither does the budcom have any idea of the projected enrollment for next year. This is, of course, why not a single member of the budget committee could answer those very simple questions.

Mr. Dube’s response in public view seemed like a forthright willingness to share information.  The implication was that the information was readily available to the public on the website – though strangely absent from the heads of individual budget committee members.  In fact, Mr. Dube was giving the questioners the run around and misleading the public as to the true nature of the budget committee’s (pitiful) deliberations.

*Mr. Cantone did speak to the vacant positions and said that Dr. Metzler had ASSURED the budget committee that there were no vacant positions in the budget. It was clear that the budget committee had no evidence to corroborate this assurance, however.

7 Comments

Filed under Sandown Issues

7 responses to “How We Practice to Deceive Part II

  1. Mark Richards

    Should have concluded with the question, “What day is it?”, for the Coup de grâce.

    • In truth, the budget committee is deliberately kept in ignorance of the most basic metrics for evaluating a budget. I blame part of this on the leadership of the budget committee, but much more on the SAU that resists disclosing salient metrics if the budcom only knew to ask for them. This year the budcom asked for full-time equivalent staffing information. The SAU did not provide this but disingenuously offered head count instead – and didn’t deliver that either. How many staff are we paying for? How many students will this staff be serving? Is this a reasonable ratio of staff to students? What is the tax impact to our towns of a 2% budget increase? Wouldn’t you think that would be the most basic approach to managing taxpayer money? Of course it is, but that is the last thing the administration wants examined. That’s also why the school board must never see a list of how many students are in each class. These are the forbidden fruit and lead to the knowledge of wasted money and challenging the hegemony of the SAU.
      From experience I can say that the first year of anyone’s service on the budget committee is wasted because there is no mentorship provided. A person has to go through an entire budget cycle to even understand what is going on. I suspect nearly every person on budcom feels frustrated – if not outrightly played. My sympathy for them doesn’t diminish my dissatisfaction with their job, though.
      This is why the School District Governance Association was founded. It is for those people who genuinely want to do their job as an elected official but need help to be effective. My take on many in Timberlane elected offices, however, is that they see their job as giving the administration whatever they want with little question or oversight. The taxpayers’ representation has been lost at Timberlane. It is somewhat encouraging that at the very last moment, the budget committee cut $200,000 from the proposed budget. Too little, too late, but at least something.

      • Mark Acciard

        [The law is thwarted] by refusing to provide info to budcom members. It is even more galling that this is BY LAW public information available to ANYONE who asks for it. […] RSA32:16, II states; “To confer with the governing body or bodies and with other officers, department heads and other officials, relative to estimated costs, revenues anticipated, and services performed to the extent deemed necessary by the budget committee. It shall be the duty of all such officers and other persons to furnish such pertinent information to the budget committee. “

        And while I do not know him, I find no reason why Mr. Dube should be any better informed by Mr. Metzler than Ms. O’Neill was when she was chair, and could not answer much the same questions from me.

        The deplorable fact is that TRSD Budcom are little more than bobbleheads. Metzler, and Stokinger write the budget that they then get to spend. They do not even bother to pay lip service to checks and balances any more, so infused with hubris are they. [Edits by DG]

      • Cathy

        No one is “deliberately” kept ignorant unless they want to be.
        The BudCom chooses not to look at the budget in detail; the BudCom chooses not to request supporting documentation. They, like the SB, are a façade there to protect the SAU and not the residents they (are supposed to) represent.

      • I agree, Cathy, though once in a while a court fight seems to have been necessary to dislodge info.

        Those committed to being cardboard cutouts for the administration have no trouble obtaining information that is favorable to the district. Those elected officials who are fully three-dimensonal, however, do have trouble obtaining information. How many times did you ask for full-time kindergarten info?

  2. Mark Acciard

    Cathy, you are correct, clearly I was not clear in my meaning. Incoming budcom member have no idea what their jobs are, and the veterans, do not bother to tell them, if they know. They are quite content to abdicate their authority for comity, and appearances. No one wants to be attacked as “hating education” and “Harming the children” when they are trying to improve both the product and its delivery.

  3. Richard L Anthony

    what was the result of the court hearing today?

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