Friday, February 1, 2008

BOF Member Michel Gutman: 'Taxpayers Should Be Disappointed'


As a member of the Board of Finance, I felt it was my responsibility to attend all four budget hearings so that I could report back to my Board when the BOE request comes to us.

I think we should add $7,000 to the BOE budget....for cheerleading uniforms for each of the seven Board of Ed members who voted for the budget. The other two, Bill Wellman and Julie Turk, get dunce caps and have to sit in the corner and be quiet. No one on the board is listening to them anyway.....I noticed everyone's "body language" every time they spoke. There was anger seeping from their pores.

Bill Wellman asked the majority of the questions. They were well thought out, but they fell upon deaf, indifferent ears. I was a little disappointed last night, however, when, after all the questions he asked the first three nights, he proposed "no more than 4.8%" without offering any suggestions, leaving it up to the "experts" in the administration. Since those "experts" already claimed to present a bare-bones budget, that didn't make sense. He should've proposed specific cuts. I'll cut him some slack because he was just appointed a few weeks ago. With that said, I still think he's a good addition to the board and we need more like him. I hope he continues to ask questions, and I expect that he will effectively scrutinize any spending requests.

Wendy Faulenbach presented her comparisons to other districts increases, showing that they're similar, and some are even higher. How is that relevant? I just don't see the point. This is about New Milford, and what the taxpayers can afford. I make my best possible effort to avoid the whole Republican/Democrat thing, but I often wonder whose side some people are really on.....why give ammunition to the side that's already fully armed?

There were a total of $160,026 in proposed "cuts" - two tenths of a percent of the budget:
$18,000 from line 561 - Magnet school tuition - That cut should've been $27,000 (18 students x $1500). The tuition is $1,000 per student. Why were they padding the budget with an additional $1500 per student, by requesting $2500 each? Would they have just accepted a 150% increase in tuition?

$17,026 from line 810 - Dues and memberships - We're paying $17,000 so they can have "reduced admission" to more cheerleading classes???

$50,000 from line 511 - Additional school bus - We have fewer students each year, yet we need another bus? By the way, why did Bill Wellman abstain on this one?

$75,000 from the Capital budget - $65,000 was justified by Julie Turk for all new tables and chairs in the High School Cafeteria. So all she was really asking for was a discretionary $10,000 decrease. The Capital budget, by the way, is up 108.25%!!!!!!!!

Of this $160,026, only $18,000 was approved by the board, and that wasn't really a cut at all. It was a reduction in an artificially inflated line item. And that line is still inflated..... So, in total, they "cut" three-one-hundreths of a percent of the requested budget.......What an accomplishment......

The final vote: 7 - 2. I'd probably feel better if it was 6-3, especially after the 75k motion was defeated. How do you vote to pass that motion, and still vote to approve the budget when it fails? Makes no sense to me.....

So, our Board of Education, which was elected to oversee the Administration (not the other way around), spent four nights playing checkers, while the master chess players in the Administration got their way, once again....I wish I could've been a fly on the wall when Dr. Paddyfote and the rest were high-fiving each other and doing their "touchdown dances"....

The taxpaying citizens of New Milford should be very disappointed. Unfortunately, they don't know any better. The newspapers provide only a fraction of the big picture, which can only be understood by actually attending these meetings.

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