more,more,more!

And when you ask them, "How much should we give?"Ooh, they only answer "More! More! More!" yoh (from the Creedence song "Fortunate Son")

On Tuesday, June 25, 2019 at 6:30 pm in the Town hall, the Wakefield Budget Committee will be meeting with our local school administrators. The subject: how to address a shortfall in the FY 2019 school budget of about $413,000.There is a bill that needs paying and there's no way out of it now. The question on everyone's mind is: "How the hell did this happen?"

Below is a summary chart that was given to the School Board members outlining the areas that are over and under budget, the greatest of which is line 1200, Special Education, with an over expenditure of over $400K.

At Tuesday’s meeting, I predict that the explanations will include blaming people who are no longer employed by the district followed by unanticipated arrivals of additional special needs students who require expensive accommodations.

Both of these issues are mostly true. It was announced early in the year that a mistake had been made by a former business administrator regarding estimated tuition costs for our high school students. Regarding Special Ed, special needs students come and go. The law requires accommodations. However, all that overspending that was loaded into the Special Ed line 1200 should receive a closer look.

The School Board knew they were in financial trouble early on, which is why they asked us for money in March. School Ballot Article 6, which the majority supported, included $200K for the purpose of "...reducing the general fund deficit....". This money will be applied towards reducing the shortfall. School Ballot Article 8 which requested $100K for the Educationally Disabled Expendable Trust Fund did not pass, probably because the Budget Committee did not endorse this request. I think the BC disapproval might have been based on the idea that there was already over $100K in the fund and the already serious amount of tax increases proposed in the rest of the budget and warrant articles. There is currently about $105K in the fund that will be applied to reducing the deficit.

Let's do the math. The SAU FY 2019 is about $413K in the red. $200K from ballot article 6 will help bring that down to around $213K. Another $105K from the existing Spec Ed trust Fund will bring the bottom line down to about $108K needed +/-.  Surplus amounts that appear on other expense lines usually get returned to the taxpayers. Not this year.

The question that needs to be brought to the School Board is: "Why did you continue spending when you knew you were in financial trouble early on?"  In the chart, Lines 2310 (School Board Services) and line 2320 (SAU Administration) show overspending in the amount of $50,346. Wait a minute. Wasn't having our own SAU supposed to SAVE us $100K a year. We voted for that. It appears that parts of the withdrawal plan are being ignored.

The $42K they supposedly found in the 2020 budget was quickly given away by increasing the Superintendents pay in 2020. In my opinion, they could have covered most of the $105K shortfall with just a little belt tightening that wouldn’t have affected the kids. Apparently they have forgotten
that in December, our tax bills are estimated to increase by $154 per $100,000
of property evaluation, due to the school budget and warrants passed on March
2019.  Or could it be that they don’t
really care?

I'm sure our Budget Committee will do its best to get to the bottom of what happened but it's all moot. We will be forced to pay these bills. There are two scenarios that can be played out. Exactly what will happen after each decision is not completely clear to me. These are my assumptions based on the information I have gathered. Please post below any corrections.
1: The Budget Committee votes “Yes”.
This may be the easiest way to get the funding. The process will include asking the NH commissioner of Education for approval, which he will most likely give.
2: The Budget Committee votes “No”.
This could result in a more extensive process of having to go back to the NH DRA (department of revenue administration), the folks who set the tax rates.

We all live with budgets. We know that we can't spend more than we receive. When unanticipated expenses come up, we look for ways to economize. In 2019, I can't see where this administration did much to address what they knew was coming. There is a widening disconnect occurring right now
between our elected SB members and the public. This "let them eat cake" attitude is the result of the wrong people flying the jumbo jet while our kids are just helpless passengers. Administrative costs are going up while teachers are not getting raises. I see emphasis on things like a "space needs committee" (translation: we want to expand even though enrollments are steady).

When members of the public sound the alarm at meetings, Board members’ responses have been to review policies and make suggestions how to limit public input. If I hear anyone say "we have one of the lowest tax rates in the state" one more time I'm gonna scream! It's because we have over seven lakes and over one billion dollars of property value in our Town, NOT BECAUSE OF LOW BUDGETS! They say they need and want our support. What? All we have done is support them! The proof is in the numbers. Below is a chart with budget and enrollment numbers. Budgets are going up. Enrollments are lower than many years ago and holding steady. But our academic ranking keeps going DOWN!

Wakefield School District statistics FY 2015 – FY 2019

Fiscal Year  Budget    Warrants   Paul School    High School
students        students

2015     $8,688,412   $615,373     414                   186
2016     $9,006,183   $746,493     423                   184
2017     $9,426,836   $337,352     415                   181
2018     $9,631,420   $161,300     428                     ?
2019    $10,605,989  $745,824     453                   164

Here’s a real eye opener: (I believe this information to be based on facts but I cannot verify it)

https://www.schooldigger.com/go/NH/schools/0678000442/school.aspx

We have always been willing to give towards the education of our children. Maybe it’s time we made demands of our own. It’s time we received value for our support. The only increase I want to see for a while is in the amount of knowledge that our kids receive as they attend our school system.

Since I’ve been told that there will be no public comment at Tuesday’s meeting, I’m using e-mail to urge our Budget Committee members to vote “No” this time around, not out of spite but there needs to be a consequence to the SAU  and SB for poor governing. The SB will get (and we will pay for) the money they need anyway, but this sends a clear message that this fiscal irresponsibility cannot continue. If you
agree, send the Budget Committee members an e-mail with “just say no” in the
header. It’s easy. Just copy and paste these addresses in the “To” part of an
email:

Since the meeting date has passed, I have removed the e-mail addresses to eliminate their possible misuse by spammers.
If you wish to have them to contact the Budget Committee members, please e-mail me.

JM

6 Comments

  1. Anonymous said:

    Excellent blog filled with verifiable information. Thank you Jim Miller. Sincerely, Beth Seldin

    June 24, 2019
    Reply
  2. Anonymous said:

    Appreciate your clear and comprehensive explanation of the situation. Accountability and transparency must be insisted upon if we are to support the administration’s decisions and actions. If students were excelling there would be value to justify the expenditures. The budget committee knows how I feel about this and I hope others are courageous enough to voice their feelings as well.

    June 24, 2019
    Reply
  3. Anonymous said:

    Anyone else have a problem with the Ken paul email? Mine was sent back as undeliverable?

    June 25, 2019
    Reply
    • admin said:

      My apologies for the incorrect e-mail address for Ken Paul.
      Actually, since these are personal e-mail addresses, I will be removing these email addresses from my blog post after the Tuesday meeting to prevent any spammers from getting them.
      Send me an e-mail if you need them to contact our Budget Committee on any other issues.

      June 25, 2019
      Reply
  4. Anonymous said:

    This is hard to believe, but most likely true, throwing money indiscriminately at a poor school rating is not the answer, the chart reads like an investment annual report, smoke and mirrors, with very little concern for the success of our children!

    June 25, 2019
    Reply

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