As I See It
By GUY CARON
Friday, July 2, 2010

School Board has much more than $610K to give back
Deliberative session promise by Allard just scratches the surface  

Remember school board chairman Keith Allard's promise at the February 1, 2010 school deliberative session that they expected to return up to $610,000 at the end of the fiscal year that just ended June 30th?  It seems he will make good on his promise.

But - it also seems there are hundreds of thousands of dollars more to be given back as well.  Worse, the final total will be a lot less than it should be.  Again.

The school district's fiscal '09-'10 budget (last year's budget) just ended at midnight Wednesday.  Next year's budget ('10-'11) began at 12:01 am on July 1st.  By law, the school district must return all unspent monies to the taxpayers at the end of each fiscal year - they don't do it out of the goodness of their hearts as they'd have you believe.  

As we have seen year after year, the school board (like many other government entities) has engaged in last-minute spending sprees just before the end of their fiscal years.  The mindset is that since the taxpayers gave them the money, they must spend it all or not expect the same amount the following year. 

With that in mind, consider what happened to last year's budget ('09-'10) just before the midnight-Wednesday deadline:

  • The school board spent roughly $185,000 from on a VoIP phone system that is in next year's budget. Since that phone system is budgeted for in next year's budget, that money should have been added to the $610,000 "refund", not spent now.

  • Wednesday night (with less than 6 hours to the midnight deadline), the school board encumbered another $138,000 "in case" Mountain View Middle School needs a new oil tank.  As far as I know (and I hope to confirm by mid-week), the school board cannot legally encumber funds for this purpose without having executed a contract for the work to be done.  They have not done so.  It is also of interest to note that there is nothing wrong with the oil tank at MVMS.  Rather, it is the cathodic protection system for that tank that will be repaired for $8,725.

  • Allard also announced at the school board's June 30th "Emergency Spending Meeting" that in addition to grants they have received, the school district has also realized "unexpected tuition revenue".  Unbelievably, that revenue amounted to $950,000.  

That last one is really troubling to me.  How could the school board have made a mistake of that magnitude when estimating tuition revenue?  After all, $950,000 covers tuition for a huge number of students.  Don't they know how many students they are expecting from Dunbarton and New Boston each year?  Do they expect us to believe they simply made a mistake?

I don't believe leaving this tuition revenue out of last year's proposed budget was a mistake at all.

With all this in mind (and more to come when the final spending numbers are released), let's do a little math:

   $  610,000.00 - promised by Allard on 2/1/10
   $  185,000.00 - budgeted for '10-'11 but spent from '09-'10 funds
   $  138,000.00 - encumbered for an oil tank at MVMS without a contract for replacement
   $  950,000.00 - "surprise" tuition revenue
   --------------------
   $1,883,000.00 - to retuned to taxpayers

Add to this number the unexpected grants the schools received (I don't have a total for those yet), and Goffstown taxpayers should be expecting a refund of at least $2 million or so from the '09-'10 budget, not $610,000.  And don't forget, this is the same budget Allard tried to increase by $1 million at the 2/1, deliberative session, and when he failed to do so (thank you, voters!), he predicted massive teacher layoffs, increased pupil-teacher ratios and a reduction in the quality of education, none of which happened.  But he did manage buy next year's VoIP phone system with this year's money.  

And when two special education teachers left the school system earlier this year, guess what happened - they weren't replaced with teachers, they were replaced with more administrators.

The school district's final budget expenditures for the '09-'10 fiscal year will be available soon.  When they are released, they will be published here.  They will indicate where YOUR money was spent at the last minute, and on WHAT is was spent.

Then, you can decide for yourself as to the frugality of our school board, and how much is really needed to educate our kids.  New phone systems do nothing towards that end.

It seems to me the budget committee's request for a minimum 10% reduction in the school proposed operating budget for '11-'12 is a very reasonable request, and the final reduction should be much, much more.




Guy Caron can be reached via e-mail at: GuyC@GoffstownResidentsAssociation.com

Past Columns by Guy Caron  >>>

 


DISCLAIMER:  The opinions expressed by Mr. Caron are not necessarily those of the Goffstown Residents Association or its members.


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