plans cuts while our school board plans
opposites: Decision made to ignore Budget
Committee, start with zero-based budget, then
in May, the Litchfield Board of Selectmen asked
town department heads to actually reduce next
year's operating budget by coming up with creative
ways to reduce spending and cut their budgets 5%
below the default budget.
I say "Kudos" to Litchfield selectmen
for understanding the plight of their taxpayers,
the debilitating economic times and the need for
everyone to tighten their belts.
alas, this mindset does not seem to exist on the
Goffstown School Board.
At their meeting on June 21st, the school board
discussed - and lamented - the Budget Committee's
resolution on 6/15 (passed by a vote of 11-1-2)
requesting both town and school operating budgets
be reduced by at least ten percent for next
year. Such a reduction to the school board's
current $35.6 million budget would mean preparing
a smarter, more streamlined budget, somewhere in
the neighborhood of $32 million. Or less.
But the school board decided to ignore the Budget
Committee's request, voting unanimously instead to
start with a zero-based budget, then work upwards
from there (see meeting
minutes of 6/21/10).
When considering this, it is important to remember
that over the last few of their fiscal years, the
school board has been operating with its familiar
"business as usual" spending
habits. And despite these "bottomless
taxpayer-wallet" spending habits, their
actual expenditures average far less than what
they've been granted, roughly $33.5 million.
One thing is for sure: it will not be
business as usual for Goffstown taxpayers after we
open our new tax bills this December and get hit
with the most recent, huge school district
increase. Overall, our tax bills will be
going up nearly fourteen percent.
Amidst the most dire economic recession in
decades, the worst thing anyone can do is raise
taxes on the already strained wallets of the
masses. But apparently, this is exactly what
the school board has announced they plan to do.
This unfortunate "business as usual"
mindset of continued increases in spending must
end now. It is unsustainable.
Enrollment in our school district has remained
virtually unchanged over the last few years, yet
the school board continues year after year to push
for more and more 'Cadillac' programs, unneeded
equipment, unnecessary "nice-to-haves"
and other wasteful spending.
A couple of years ago, school board chairman Keith
Allard admitted to the school board's common
practice of loading their proposed budgets with
unnecessary 'fat', referred to by Allard as
something "...we affectionately call
We can no longer afford anymore school board
fluff. Not this coming year, or any year
It is interesting to note that the school board's
'fluff' is apparently not something that the Villa
Augustina is familiar with. Nor is
zero-based budgeting with upward
I have spoken to a number of parents recently who
choose to educate their kids at the Villa
Augustina and have had very interesting
discussions with a few of them about their views
on our school board and school district as a
whole. One of them wrote to me this week, "It disgusts me that my kids are getting a quality education
for 1/3 of what it costs the public students per pupil.
On top of that, I am paying for them (public
This coming fall, the budget season in Goffstown
begins once again. As a member of the Budget
Committee, I was hopeful that this time around,
the school board would not fall back on it's usual
"responsible budgeting" rhetoric, or
"the sky will fall if we don't get what we
ask for" doomsday propaganda, but instead
will take the high road this year as so many other
school boards across the state have done to
actually reduce spending.
I remain hopeful that this will occur, as time
still remains for the school board to re-evaluate
its approach to running our school district and
take whatever steps are necessary to accomplish
future "miscalculations" on
anticipated revenue ($950,000 last year alone
in tuition revenue, not included in their
the practice of replacing teachers with administrators,
then claiming reductions to their requested
budgets were the cause;
the number of administrative positions in
every school, as well as the SAU;
by example and eliminate their stipends (I am
an elected official and I receive no pay or
hardball on behalf of taxpayers during
upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreements;
the Budget Committee with a budget reflecting
the requested 10% decrease, then make a
case for any increases to it;
the customary practice of publicly predicting
catastrophic reductions to critical
educational services when faced with
reductions to non-educational budget lines;
of which, publicly acknowledge that their
budget lines are meaningless, since they
operate with bottom-line budgets;
all "nice-to-have" spending
(disaster mitigation spending, VoIP phone
systems, unneeded software upgrades, etc.); In
other words, freeze ALL non-education-critical
out of the real estate investment business;
clean with taxpayers on past "fluff"
spending, and pledge no such future requests;
past deliberative session delay-tactics such
as 'good news' announcements, staff and
student awards, theater company productions
and the like, all of which only serve to delay
the intent of the session by hours and serve
their own agendas, and, finally,
the challenge of making Goffstown a stellar
example of fiscal restraint and responsibility
in NH amidst incredibly trying times.
a number of Goffstown's school board members
personally. For the most part, they are
hard-working, dedicated individuals who have the
best interests of our children's education in
mind, and they should be commended for
I, along with everyone else I know on the Budget
Committee, also have the best interests of our
children's education in mind. The difference
is, we on the Budget Committee have, in some ways,
an even tougher task than the school board
does. Along with ensuring a quality
education for Goffstown's children, we are also tasked
to do so in a way that their parents can
That last part is what you folks elected us on the Budget
do. It's also a task the school board must
start to embrace. Especially now.
Because there's no room (or money) anymore for
A new VoIP phone system does little good for a
student whose parents have to move that student
(and their entire family, for that matter) out of
town because they can't afford to finance that
Accept the challenge, school board. Lead by
example and set the standard in New Hampshire for
responsible, and affordable, education.
Guy Caron can be
reached via e-mail at: GuyC@GoffstownResidentsAssociation.com
Columns by Guy Caron
DISCLAIMER: The opinions
expressed by Mr. Caron are not necessarily those of the
Goffstown Residents Association or its members.
Copyrightę2010 Goffstown Residents Association. All Rights Reserved.