I have thought long and hard about this decision. Remember even businesses can vote so long as they have $1000 in taxable property! I do not believe the Board of Education has made the efforts that they should have to minimize their request for increases. For the following reasons I will not support the budget this Tuesday:
The school has made little effort to renegotiate with their various Unions. Even though Town employees (like most people) have given up their raises 2 years in a row the Board of Ed has proposed the following raises: $1,009, 590 in teacher raises (average raise of 4.24%), $105,216 in administrative raises (average raise of 5.08%), $103,336 in secretarial raises (average raise of 4.87%), $64,352 in maintenance staff raises (average raise of 3.03%). That is a total of $1,282,494 in raises which is simply unacceptable in these times. It shall be noted that the Unions on the Town volunteered to give up their raises.
DECEPTIVE BUDGET TRANSFERS
The Board of Education is supposed to make best efforts to state where they believe they will spend their money (i.e. – electricity account should be spent on electricity). On June 9, 2009 (3 weeks before the fiscal year ended) they made the following transfers: $462, 328.40 transferred from electricity account to other accounts and spent it on things like $12,100.00 for trash liners and $5,500 for cafeteria tables even though we as taxpayers voted for that money to go towards electricity usage expenses! $240,546.00 transferred from the bus contract account to other accounts and spent it on things like $9,825.00 for hand dryers, $4,800.00 for toilet paper, $4,950.00 for wax, $39,915.00 for cafeteria tables even though it was supposed to be for the busing contract. $60,528.00 transferred from the natural gas account , $28,599 transferred from the oil account and spent it on things not having to do with utilities.
CONTINUAL OVERBUDGETING OF UTILITIES
For the past three years on average, the Board of Ed has overbudgeted $191,543 for fuel, $383,024 for electricity, and $19,179 for advertising expense. This surplus money is then utilized for things that we as voters did not approve. The Town Council and Board of Finance both stated that the Board of Education should try to budget their utilities accurately, however, the last 3 years they have overbudgeted their fuel by 21.72 percent and electricity by 28.06 percent. This is unacceptable. Any substantial surplus from line items we as taxpayers approve should be returned to the Town instead of spent on things we as voters did not approve.
FAILURE TO CONSIDER COST SAVINGS MEASURES BROUGHT UP BY GENERAL PUBLIC
The Public has brought up several suggestions to consider costs savings including at the BOE meeting on March 30, 2010. The response from Nancy Latour (Board of Ed members) was, “Mrs. Tarascio-Latour made reference to the fact that during public comment she did not hear anyone reference cuts that would amount to anything substantial. She did hear comments about reducing printing, postage, and library books. She believes the large cuts could not be found because there isn’t excess in the Board’s budget.” As a taxpayer to me this is unacceptable as we should be trying to save in every way we can. Why aren’t we honestly assessing each and every potential for cost savings?
It is for the reasons above that I cannot support the Board of Ed/School budget on May 18th. We have several small businesses in Town who are struggling right now, we have underemployed and many who are unemployed. We owe it to them to make the best effort we can to try to minimize their tax increases.