Tag Archives: Full-Time Kindergarten

A Citizen Speaks: Arthur Green’s first address to the school board

Presentation to the Timberlane District School Board

March 20, 2014

My name is Arthur Green, of Sandown.  I am scheduled to be sworn in to the Timberlane Budget Committee in a few days, but I appear today as a private citizen.

This being the first meeting since election day, this is the Board’s first opportunity to deliberate the rejection of the proposed budget, and the resulting changes needed to operate on default budget for 2014/15.

I was surprised and concerned to learn from coverage in the Eagle Tribune March 14 that Dr. Metzler plans to carry on with the Full-Day Kindergarten which was the principal new feature of the proposed budget.

I don’t wish to debate the merits of this program, on which there are differences of opinion.  I wish to focus exclusively on the implications of the default budget.  The default budget does not include the new Full-time Kindergarten positions, benefits and furniture purchases, which means that the program is not funded.

As a voter, my expectation is that Full-time Kindergarten has been eliminated from the budget. I believe that my expectation is widely shared, particularly amongst those who voted against, and defeated, the proposed budget.

I am fully aware that the district operates on a bottom-line budget, and that funding can be redirected from the approved budget lines. However, budget training material published by the LGC in 2012 entitled “The Municipal Budget Process” states that a default budget means a budget freeze, and no new purposes.

No Full-Time Kindergarten.

It may well be that the Timberlane District has legal advice that there is no prohibition to proceeding with the program if the money can be reallocated within the voted default budget. But I do not see how the district can take that course yet still claim to have heard the message sent by the voters.

No Full-Time Kindergarten.

The program is claimed to be funded by fees, so the board may hope that there is no net expenditure. But the voted default budget restricts expenditure regardless of the claimed offsetting revenue.

No Full-Time Kindergarten.

On March 14, Dr. Metzler released a video with the very alarming suggestion that the coming (2014/15) year would not be passing on a “significant” surplus to the 2015/16 year. Every dollar of surplus spent in the coming year is an additional dollar to be raised in taxes the year after.

Timberlane has deliberately carried forward a significant surplus from year to year – for the past five years it has been consistently about $2 million. I have repeatedly heard this surplus defended in budget committee as a prudent buffer against unexpected emergencies, and I agree with the need for a contingency.  The 2015 default budget fully funds all non-discretionary increases from the 2014 baseline, so adhering to the default budget is no justification to draw down the surplus.  If the Full-time Kindergarten program is truly self-funding as claimed, it gives no reason to draw down the surplus.

If the surplus is spent, the consequences for the December 2015 tax bill will be severe. For example, in Sandown the December 2014 school tax bill will go up an average of 7.6% based on the default budget alone. If we did not have the $2 million surplus this year, that increase would double to 15%.  We don’t know yet, of course, what the school tax rate will be for 2016, but without the surplus to offset it, it will be a catastrophe to many taxpayers of this district.

I have two requests to make of the School Board.  I call upon you to vote up or down on the Full-Time Kindergarten program. This program is contrary to the clear intent of the voters in holding the district to a default budget. If it proceeds despite that let it be because this board takes a vote.

Second, I call upon you to give direction to the administration that the surplus must be conserved. If the district proceeds to spend all the funds allocated through the default budget, let it be because this board takes a vote.

I look forward to taking my place next week on the budget committee to help the district deliver an excellent, effective, affordable education program for the students of our towns.

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