February 11, 2011
Was school budget compromise a mistake?

To the Editor:

Goffstown voters who feel that compromising on difficult issues is a good idea must be pleased with the recent turn of events with the budget committee. The Budget Committee (BC) spent a lot of time and effort negotiating with Board of Selectman (BOS) for a way to assure that there would be no property tax increase in the town portion of the Goffstown budget. The negotiations with the School Board (SB) took a much different track, but more on that later.

The BC/BOS compromise must be a good one because there are a lot of people that aren’t happy with the results. That is the way compromises generally work…nobody gets everything that they want; at the same time, nobody loses everything that they want.

One of the bigger voter concerns was the impact of a possible reduction in funds available to the Department of Public Works (DPW) for road restorations. For better or worse, the BOS agreed to some cuts and the BC voted to restore some money for roadwork. Again, that didn’t please everyone on the BC. Some BC members wanted to see much deeper cuts and others were satisfied with just a zero impact on property tax increases. Time will tell what the voters think.

At the deliberative session, some voters may opt to make larger cuts or increases to the budgets.

The deliberative session will be public and, of course, the voting day in March will be in private.

As stated before, the negotiation with the SB took an entirely different direction. Because of the direction that the BOS/BC negotiations took, it appeared that the BC members present at the last BC meeting were willing to compromise and arrive at a budget number that had zero property tax impact.

Previously, after a lot of analysis of the SB numbers (all 270 pages and 2,110 lines,) the BC voted to reduce the overall SB budget by about $2.5M without removing any teachers or paraprofessionals. In response to the BC proposal, the SB mis-represented (see: GoffstownBudgets.com) the BC recommended reductions. Was this an intentional SB tactic? Voters will decide for themselves.

The SB implied that 36 teachers/paraprofessionals and numerous programs would need to be cut to achieve the BC budget…none of which were advocated by the BC.

Ultimately it is a “bottom-line” budget, but why did the SB suggest significant teaching reductions?

One answer might appear obvious after watching the BC budget presentation when about 40 people (over 30 teacher types) spoke out against the supposed BC budget proposal. What a surprise!

The SB was also unanimous in the feeling that only the SB could address the issue of school budgets.

The deliberative session might also have its surprises. The SB may vote to add 10% to their budget.

In anticipation of this move, some members of the BC desired a further 10% cut to the BC budget to avoid the 10% rule, which allows the BC budget to be increased by only a maximum of 10%.

Time will tell whether it was a mistake for the BC to attempt to compromise with the SB.

One thing is for sure: At a time when federal wages, military salaries and social security increases are frozen for the second year, the SB will be asking for an additional $2.5M (an 11% increase) over the $20M in the local school budget. If this 11% budget increase continues every year, then the school budget (taxes?) will double in 6.5 years…sooner if state/federal revenues were to drop unexpectedly!

Ivan Beliveau





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