No confidence in financial Information we are receiving from this Superintendent and Asst Superintendent of Finance.

How do you not highlight $500,000 Deficit?
Budget Presentation

I said Wednesday night at the School Committee meeting “Being on this side of the rail is a lot tougher than I thought when I ran for the position “

It’s a tough enough position to deal with when you’re provided the information you request to do the job and you have a hard time getting it. Tougher is a budget that includes the need to eliminate positions.

It’s even tougher when the previous School Committee showed zero understanding of finance, questioned very little about finances, approved over $325,000 in new Administration cost and were misled into never approving the school budget for the 2017/2018 School year.

You end up trying to deal with a Superintendent who doesn’t feel the need to respond or respect the role of a school committee member when it comes to finances.

When the Superintendent and Asst Superintendent of finance refuse to be forthright and provide clear accurate information it makes doing the job the citizens elected you to do unnecessarily harder.

I’m frustrated and decided it is time for someone on the School Committee to step up and demand not only that our roles as School Committee members be respected by the Administration but that they start being accountable and responsive to members..

It’s time we take a deeper look at the finances and consider the real need for change in our Administration.

It was both frustrating and infuriating last Monday night when trying to find a way to save jobs by finding other options to instead find a $500,000 deficit.

What was infuriating is this was just two days before a scheduled budget hearing and just days after receiving a budget presentation from the Superintendent (above) on Thursday April 26th in which he highlights many cuts including almost $1,000,000 at LHS, reorganization of some 5th grade classes and moving the day school, to discover that the Superintendent presented the School Committee with a budget containing a half million dollar deficit and that he didn’t think it was worth informing the School Committee about it.

You would think that would be the first thing he would share but instead presented nothing and said nothing until I brought it up Wednesday night then with a straight face said he wasn’t trying to hide it.

My original motion was to have a joint City Council – School Committee Finance subcommittee meeting with the Manager to address the deficit Not to ask for more money to save jobs. It was the Mayor who wanted us to go before the Council (even though only the City Manager can add funding the Council can only cut).

Adding to the frustration Wednesday was a clueless member who even after I pointed out the deficit wanted to just vote Wednesday night to approve a budget with a $500,000 deficit while praising the Superintendent who is making him and the rest of the committee look inept

To be fair I’m sure he doesn’t really understand that he didn’t do his job and he didn’t approve a final budget for 2017/2018 and that doesn’t understand that he should be concentrating more on finance rather than lobbying the administration for people like ex school committee members or family members of former School Committee members to get jobs.

Instead of highlighting the deficit on the first page of the budget presentation the Superintendent instead just listed it in the budget book as a regular line item. Under Retirement – Sick Leave Buyback showing -$500,000 along with this note

Notes: b: Retirement Sick Leave Buyback payments will be deferred to FY2020

The School Committee is now faced with asking the new City Manager at a City Council meeting to increase the cash contribution the School Dept receives because the Superintendent instead of informing the School Committee and possibly the Manager of this deficit before presenting a budget or when first presenting the budget just hid it in the budget book.

I don’t know if the Mayor or Manager knew of the deficit before Wednesday when the Manager became aware but I do know the Superintendent just presented a budget containing a half million dollar deficit without supplying that information in a clear concise way and instead making the School Committee find it or setting it up so he could slip it pass them.

This lack of clear communication cannot be tolerated, allowed or condoned. This is not the first time he has neglected to share information with the School Committee. Last year he had them approve a budget $600,0000 higher than what the City Council authorized but never informed them that by law they can’t submit a higher figure then what the Council approves to the City for the new year.

Instead last year on June 21st he supplied this recommendation for them to continue to seek more money knowing a budget had to be submitted a week ahead of the new fiscal year.

The Superintendent then requested at that same meeting and based on his explanation the School Committee approved, taking 1 position that did two jobs paying $96,000 and $10K in benefits and breaking it into 2 positions.

The real cost ended up closer to $168,000 and $20,000 in Benefits!
Not only was it not budget neutral but what really caught my eye is the line that states:
After the budget was approved by the school committee

As of February we know that based on misinformation, partial information and based on the recommendation of the Superintendent at that same meeting, the last School Committee NEVER APPROVED A FINAL BUDGET!

Instead on June 28th the Superintendent submitted the budget and never informed the School Committee until it was brought to light in February. Still a current member things he’s the best.

We as a School Committee cannot allow this type of misinformation, partial information and last minute information to continue.

What’s even more disrespectful and disturbing is in this budget presentation, the Superintendent is informing this School Committee that he plans to overspend budget line items in this current budget that now are NOT showing a deficit.

Again he says Nothing but puts it in the budget and depends on the School Committee members not understanding it or questioning it and being able to do what he wants before they realize it.

Look at the supply and textbook line and the 2018 approved and the 2018 expected that shows a projected overrun and yet we as a school committee haven’t been informed. In fact the last monthly finance report shows we should be fine.

Ironically both the Mayor and the Superintendent were against a motion I made to freeze spending until we could get a forecast of how much “Free Cash” we might have. At their request I changed that motion to provide us with that forecast at last Wednesday’s meeting but again the Superintendent ignored the request and no report was given.

I’ve asked for a detailed explanations on 1.3 million in returned Grant money highlighted by the outside auditors in the past two years, the same information Councilor Mercier requested and I’ve asked for information on a DOE Food Service Audit on the Superintendent using $1.1 Million in charges to the revolving food service account that includes a small portion of his salary and nothing so far on either.

We approved an Asst Business Manager for Transportation position this week. Having an experienced person with a transportation background is going to be vital and I asked the Superintendent point blank if he had someone lined up for the job and was told by the Superintendent No! He would go through the process of posting and have a screening committee.

Sadly since Wednesday I keep hearing the job will go to a former school committee member who while in office didn’t either know, understand or care that they didn’t vote on a final budget, allowed a million dollars in transfers the independent Auditors Powers and Sullivan said were illegal and never questioned how and why the insurance line item went from a small surplus in June to a $600,000 deficit in August. I hope those are false rumors, if he didn’t do the job the public elected him to do, how can we trust he will do this job and be honest with the School Committee? I’m wondering if I was lied to?

Based on all of these events and others I can’t talk about

I have no confidence in the Financial information we are receiving from this Superintendent and Asst Superintendent of Finance.

Tomorrow – Letter to City Manager on need for more of a cash contribution.