Editorials published by the Goffstown Residents
Association are written by various members and
contributing non-members of the GRA.

December 24, 2008

Stop $chool foxes from guarding their own henhouse
It's time to delegate determination of default $chool budget to the Budget Committee

During these difficult economic times, we believe it is incumbent upon all elected officials to work diligently to help ease the financial crunch we are all feeling due to the growing recession.

Here in Goffstown, we've seen our Board of Selectmen do just that, having sharpened their pencils and made the necessary, yet sensible, reductions to department heads' requested budgets, understanding the need for those departments to all tighten their belts and streamline their operations. The result is that the Town side of our tax rate will not change next year.  Kudos to the Goffstown Board of Selectmen.

Not so with our $chool Board.


Board chairman Keith Allard has been repeating over and over lately that the $chool Board worked hard this year and made substantial "cuts" to their budget.  And no doubt, Allard will continue to say this to anyone who will listen, right up until the March vote in the hopes of pushing through the $chool Board's budget - to the detriment of Goffstown taxpayers.  

However, Allard's claims are little more that a carefully-crafted smokescreen that does not bear up under close scrutiny.

To begin with, the $chool Board has not cut anything from their budget.  Just the opposite.  When Allard makes this claim, he is either intentionally misleading the voters, or he is incredibly naive.  

In fact, the proposed $chool budget is again an increase of millions over what the $chool Board spent last year.  Secondly, what Allard is actually referring to is a reduction in the requested budget amount.  

That is not a tax cut, folks, especially from a taxpayer's perspective.  Indeed, on the $chool side, taxpayers will see both their property taxes and property tax rates increase again over the previous year.

When the Budget Committee reviewed the $chool Board's submitted budget on December 4th, they lowered the bottom line of that budget by $1.26M.  This still would have left the $chool Board with roughly $2M more than it actually spent last year.

But the $chool Board wanted more, and after intense pressure and questionable tactics at the December 16th Budget Committee meeting, they succeeded in getting $700,000 of that reduction put back into their budget (not that they needed the committee's approval).

The result?  Another $chool tax hike for Goffstown, at a time when enrollment is DOWN (again) from last year.


The real problem in our budget process in Goffstown is the difference in the way the Town and the $chool budget processes work, and the way they each ultimately make their ways onto the ballot.

To put it simply, the proposed Town budget is comprised of individual department and administrative budgets.  Each year they are put together by various administrators and department heads, then brought to the Board of Selectmen for review.  Selectmen, who have no budget of their own, then review those various requested department budgets, make additions or reductions as they believe necessary, then send that budget to the Budget Committee for review.  The Budget Committee, which is only an advisory committee, then has the opportunity to make additional recommended changes, send it back to selectmen.  Ultimately selectmen will present a final recommended budget at public hearing for eventual submission to taxpayers at Town Vote in March.

What is noteworthy in the Town process is that the Board of Selectmen have nothing to gain, individually or as a board, during this process; they are simply making adjustments to the requested budgets of various town departments.  And the town administrators and department heads who are requesting these budgets are not the ones who decide what budgets will actually be submitted to the voters.  


But that is not the case with the $chool Board.  Indeed, the $chool Board not only decides how much money to put in their budget year after year through their own internal processes (principal's & administrators budgets), they are also the ones who approve that same budget to be sent to the voters.  They are not at the mercy of a non-partisan board or committee such as the Town's department heads are.

Sure, the voters could always reject it, but that would mean reverting to the default budget, and the $chool Board establishes their default budget as well!

Effectively, the $chool Board is guarding its own henhouse, with none of the checks and balances that exist in the Town budgeting process in place to reign in their "fluff"-filled budgets each year..

This has GOT to end.


Unfortunately, many voters fail to realize that our Budget Committee functions in an advisory capacity only.  They do not have the authority to determine our $chool* (or Town) default budget.

The $chool Board is well aware of this, effectively warning the Budget Committee on December 16th  that if the committee did not agree to their demands, the $chool Board had ways to get whatever amount they wanted anyway.  For all intents and purposes, the $chool Board pointed out that the Budget Committee was powerless to stop them.  And at the moment, they're right.

The only way to keep the $chool foxes from guarding their own henhouse (and running amok as they have for years with taxpayer money) is to take control of establishing their own default budget away from them and put it in the hands of the Budget Committee.  Doing so would provide taxpayers with a much more fair and balanced assessment of $chool needs, and help reign in the "fluff" that chairman Allard admitted last week existed in the $chool budget.


Giving the Budget Committee authority to establish municipal default budgets is provided for under New Hampshire statute RSA 40:14-b.  In 2006, petition articles appeared on the ballot in an attempt to do just that, but failed to garner the required 60% of the vote to pass.

Next March, a petition article will appear on the $chool Warrant stating: "Shall we adopt the provisions of RSA 40:14-b to delegate the determination of the default budget to the municipal budget committee which has been adopted under RSA 32:14?"

We STRONGLY URGE all voters to support this petition article by voting YES to it on March 10th. 

Contrary to what you will be hearing soon, passage of such an article will not squeeze our $chool services, nor will it reduce bus service, eliminate sports programs or result in any of the other "sky-is-falling" fear-stoking cries often heard from our $chool departments.

Rather, passage of this article will pressure our $chool officials to do what every other department in Goffstown had to do this year: sharpen their pencils, tighten their belts, and put the best interests of Goffstown's taxpayers - and the futures of our children - ahead of their own "fluff" and pet projects.

It's a simple matter of eliminating wasteful and unnecessary spending - something the $chool Board has never had to do.



Cloutier calculations expose waste
Please support school petition article
School budget continues to double every 10 years

Did the School Board look out for your best interests?
Budget Committee caves in amid School tactics
How the $chool Board - and government - is ruining Goffstown


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