September 24, 2010
What’s the bottom line for our schools?

To the Editor:

What’s the Bottom Line for Goffstown?

There is a magazine named “The Bottom Line” that claims to present just the straight facts with no bias. There is an expression “what’s the bottom line “ that roughly means “just get to the point.” There is also a “Bottom Line” in finance that should be of interest, especially in this economy.

The “Bottom Line” in finance is simply the last line on a profit and loss (P&L) statement that shows the final revenues vs. final expenses. More expenses than revenue and there is a loss of money. Goffstown households and businesses tend not to operate at a loss for a very long time. Town, state and federal governments tend to operate under a different set of rules, but more about that later.

Goffstown also has another “Bottom Line” – a “Bottom Line Budget.” What this means is that the individual budget expense lines are essentially irrelevant because the department heads can spend anything that they want as long as the “Bottom Line” of the budget remains the same. 

For instance, the Budget Committee (BC), which is a group of unpaid volunteers, might agonize over every budget line late into the evening 2 days a week, week-after-week and essentially it doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t really mean anything because the town and school department heads can buy most anything they want. They simply have to cut an equal expense from some other budget line so that the “Bottom Line” is unaffected. This is done all the time as circumstances dictate.

Competent full-time Goffstown town and school dept. heads are well compensated and are expected to make decisions all the time, including financial, as experience and the individual situations dictate.

It should be totally reasonable to expect professionals to respond that way around budgets. There is, however, a major difference between households, businesses and government at all levels when it comes to budget preparation. There are no restrictions based on anticipated revenues for governments! It simply is a matter of automatically raising taxes. The taxes may be direct or they are indirect taxes such as deficit spending. This has been done for decades. This may well be changing.

Asking person A, who has lost a job and healthcare, has no pension and is underwater in their mortgage to pay for person B to have a permanent job, pension plan and lifetime healthcare might seem to some to be asking too much. This is a fluid situation with no recent precedent in the US of A.

Conventional wisdom in Goffstown has been that all services must remain intact or else any elected official could expect to be voted out of office. But why do any services have to be cut at all?

One example: The Goffstown school budget has gone from $19.8 M (2000) to $35.6 M (2010) for a 79.8% increase. That would be about an 8% per year increase. The teacher pay increase is different.

In 2000 the average Goffstown teacher base pay was $36,137 per year. By 2010 it had increased to $45,171 (DOE data) or about a 24.9% total increase. That represents about a 2.49% increase per year. Perhaps that is palatable and a lot less than the total school budget increase. Why cut teachers?

Teachers can’t retire at 45 with a pension that includes overtime pay from details during the “final 3 years” that police and firemen enjoy. Perhaps there is a different situation with the school bureaucracy/administration. Adjusting administration pay/staffing level doesn’t affect services!

The School Board (SB) also claims that several million of the school budget is for non-educational expenses. Why not look at all those numbers and save valuable teachers and services?

I just thought that you had a “Right to Know (R2K).

Ivan Beliveau


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