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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

You’ll Decimate the School Distrct Budget


You’ll Decimate the Budget
October 16, 2010
by danvilledelivery

Thursday the budget committee received La Salle’s first presentation of the 2011 budget. The presentations were very high level. The video and the presentation are posted on the budget committee web site.

The committee met after the presentations and the vice chair asked if it was possible to segregate discretionary spending from obligations. The answer, as always, from SAU 55 Business Administrator George Stokinger, was that this would be very difficult. He went on to complain that we wasted a lot of time on this last year and it was time to move on because the SAU respects the wishes of the taxpayers.

I reminded the committee that the SAU just asked the school board to allow $1.2m not allocated for school construction to be used for engineering studies and permitting for a new high school. Before I could add that Mr. La Salle warned the school board that a no vote on a construction warrant would preclude misappropriating other funds for this purpose, I was ruled out of order by the chair.

There was other discussion of the budget process culminating in the annual pronouncement that the budget committee recommends changes to the District which may or may not be accepted and that the administration is free to spend the budget as they see fit once it is passed by the voters. I countered that the administration could not transfer funds to a line that was zeroed and asked Mr. Stokinger if he would split buckets so that we could zero out frivolous expenditures. He said that the state sets the buckets — which is a half truth. I told him that not allowing us to zero out unwanted items by putting them in buckets with necessary items could result in necessary items going unfunded. Mr. Stokinger said that doing that would decimate the budget. And that is the SAU 55 tactic for boxing a timid budget committee out of the budget discussion.

The budget committee attended a Budget and Finance workshop offered by the New Hampshire Local Government Center. I would have called this Loopholes 101 as the program seemed to be designed to help government officers secure more funding from stingy taxpayers. Top of their list of problems was SB2 which allows taxpayers to vote on local matters under cover of the secret ballot. Government employees and officers fear the taxpayers will vote down the budget each year and they will have to make due with a bare bones default budget. SAU 55 has found a work around for this problem. The administration submits a default budget that is more than the requested budget so that a vote against the proposed budget will put more money in the hands of the administration. Brenda Copp and I challenged this tactic last year and Mr. Stokinger stated that the DRA (Depart of Revenue Administration) reviewed and approved the default budget. I asked the DRA rep at the seminar about this at Loopholes 101 and was told the no one from the state reviews the default budget. She stated that the practice of submitting a bloated default budget violated the spirit and letter of state law but that the only remedy was to challenge the default budget in court. And that is the SAU 55 tactic for boxing the voters out of the budget process.

I can think of other remedies. The most important thing we must do is to replace the school board members. The district is able to do all these bad things only because the school board rubber stamps La Salle’s edicts. Elect one decent person to the school board and it would not be possible to seal the minutes of a meeting for 99 years. Elect five decent people and the schools will start getting better. Change starts in March!

Until we can elect a decent school board, we can attend the Deliberative Session and amend the proposed budget. This would put La Salle and his Posse on notice that if they do not start teaching, we will not give them any money. See you at the Deliberative Session!


MAcciard said...

Would SOMEONE Please inform District Budget Committee Chair, Michelle O'Niel that neither the School Board, SAU, Superintendant,nor the Business manager have ANY AUTHORITY AT ALL OVER THE PREPARATION OF THE BUDGET! Their authority BEGINS AFTER the voters approve the budget. They get to spend it. PRIOR to voter approval, The budget committee is the only authority allowed to adjust amounts, move line items, add line items, delete line items. NO ONE ELSE.

At some point you have to begin doing your job.

Len Mullen said...

Better questions: Who will come to the deliberative session to put an alternate budget on the ballot and who will help craft it?

Anonymous said...

Some of us showed up last year and I hate to say that I enevr want to be in that room again. The room was stacked with teachers and the angry Mr. O'Neil was out of line in my opinion. It was as if we did not have the right to question them!

Sure, we need new decent players but that was the type of behavior that dissuades folks from getting involved.

MAcciard said...

Mr. Stokinger, and Mr. LaSalle; You are REQUIRED BY LAW to provide the budget committee with ANT INFORMATION IT FEELS IT NEEDS TO PREPARE THE BUDGET.

This means if the budget committee asks for figures on discretionary spending, you provide it!

if they ask for numbers on curriculum costs, you provide it!

You do not get to refuse to provide information.

You do not get to decide what they need, and what they don't, THEY DO!

Why is it so hard to make a transparent budget?

MAcciard said...

Oh, and Mr. Stokinger's comment about the State deciding what buckets money is accounted for in, that is only partially true.

The State has a form for the district to report it's budget on. That does not affect, how the budget is prepared.

For example, if the budget committee decided that "regular programs" was too broad a budget line item, they have the authority to create line items under it, to account for different items. They ALSO have the authority to adjust spending levels.

For example, Let's say that the budget committee, felt after careful review that we were spending too much or not enough on...... office supplies, they can decrease or increase that line item accordingly.

They also have the authority to create new line items, delete line items and move line items. The SAU DOES NOT!

If this budget committee were doing it's job, when Mr. LaSalle asked for $1.2 Million for engineering studies, they would have informed him that there is no line item for that in the budget, and he didn't mention it at deliberative session, and the voters did not appropriate any money for that purpose. Hence it would be illegal to spend that money for that purpose.

Not to mention that he told us, at deliberative session that he needed every dollar of that bloated budget to educate our children. When I proposed only increasing his spending by $3,000,000.00 instead of potentially $9,000,000.00 he with the help of school board chair Kosta, gave us a list of $9,000,000 in cuts necessary to only half way meet my proposal.

Yet he can come up with 1/4 of that amount for engineering studies. This is a tacit admission that he lied to each and every one of us last meeting!

Anonymous said...

Why dont the taxpayers have a right to know how their money is spent in the schools?

LaSalle last year said the taxpayers dont have any right to know what he is paid. He said it to Bill Bennett.

MAcciard said...

FYI, Mr. LaSalle is the third highest paid superintendent in the State behind Manchester's and Nashua's.

He makes $132,000/yr. salary plus benefits, in other words his job costs the taxpayers about $165,000/yr.

Hope that helps. And he is wrong, it is ALL public information, and You ARE entitled to know.

Len Mullen said...

Anon1212, mistakes were made last year. We needed to ask for secret ballots for all votes. The moderator made no effort to ensure only voters were heard. We did not bring enough taxpayers to the party. La Salle coerced his charges to participate. There are many more taxpayers than employees living in the district. The taxpayers need to believe they have as much at stake as the employees. We do. Please do not let one false start scare you away.

Len Mullen said...

This is how the exchange I documented was captured in the budget committee's draft minutes...

There was a brief discussion about the recently attended State Budget Committee workshop.

Len Mullen said...

Hope that helps. And he is wrong, it is ALL public information, and You ARE entitled to know.
Len: Great turn around on posting the presentation and especially the video. Could we also post the detailed budget data that was shared after the presentation?

Chair: As determined at a previous meeting we will vote on what will be posted on Share point

Peter B. said...

Mr. LaSalles contract, pay and benefits may be found at:

FWIW: I received them within 24 hours of asking in writing.

Peter B.

Anonymous said...

Why did Mrs. Oneil run for office if all she was going to do was whine about not having the expertise to write a budget?

Anonymous said...

Mrs ONeil is hoping to become highly paid admin in the district. She has returned to school to change careers a few years ago. It was mentioned on Speakoutdanville a few years ago.

Anonymous said...

Actually the last heard around town was November and it was true, the selectmen did lift a cease and desist against the Osborns

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons I heard parents are using as an excuse not to attend the deliberative session is that your kids will be targeted by teachers (passive aggressive, no support, harm their grades, etc) if you show up and exercise your rights to vote and be heard at the meeting. I will not be intimidated by thugs who only care to take my money and not educate my kids. Terminating mid terms and finals was the last straw for me.

We need an organized effort and ave to be sure we outnumber the mob. We're on to them now and won't tolerate their lawbreaking any further. They'll try to jam a new high school down our throat next as if that'll solve the problem. It's clearly a people problem. I vote for legal action to challenge the mob because that's what they've become. WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!!

Anonymous said...

Rah-Rah! Zip-boom-bah!

Anonymous said...

Oh, and ANON will you initiate the lawsuit? Doubt it...

Anonymous said...

Don't be so sure about that!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, right. I won't hold my breath waiting.