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Emphasis on Con

March 3, 2013

CONtract

Vol 4 No 2 of the SB Notes is Electioneering: Yesterday, I received my copy of the TRSD School Board Notes.  In the upper right corner of the leaflet, there is an image of a magnifying glass and a contract with the letters C-O-N magnified and emphasized.  I think this is totally appropriate for this flyer.  For starters, there is a law against using public funds to campaign for candidates or warrants.  It’s called electioneering and the TRSD, it’s employees, the PTA, and members of the School Board routinely violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the law by using publicly funded resources to influence voters.  Using school copiers to create pamphlets, busing students to polls, and sending political messages home via the other Danville Delivery are all examples of electioneering.

No Tax Impact is a Con:  One of the favorite slogans of the TRSD political machine is No Tax Impact.  Every year, the SAU encourages us to approve adding funds to the Capital Reserve Fund assuring us that, “These funds will not come from additional taxes.”  This is a lie…er…con.   Absent approval of a warrant to redirect the surplus to a capital reserve fund, the money would be returned to the taxpayers and used to offset other spending.  Your taxes will be higher if this warrant is approved.  Time to say no to this shell game.  Vote No on Article 3.

Fund Balance Retention is a Tax Increase:  We have to begin any discussion of surpluses with an explanation of the concept of the Bottom Line Budget.  The Timberlane Regional School District operates on a Bottom Line Budget.  This simply means that the voters approve a budget and defer allocation to the Superintendent of Schools.  This arrangement concedes that neither School Board nor Budget Committee has the time or expertise to micromanage a $65,000,000 enterprise.  Got that?  No matter what it says on the piles of paper dispersed to the budget committee in December, the Superintendent of Schools is free to spend the money as he sees fit.  If, in December, he asks for $100,000 to repair a septic system or failing roof, he can instead use that money to buy lawn mowers and batting cages in June.  Should the septic system or roof fail during the current budget year, Dr. Metzler would be compelled to find funding to make repairs in what is left of his budget.  If we approve Fund Balance Retention, Dr. Metzler could simply convene his posse, declare an emergency, and tap the retained surplus.  Anyone who survived the PAC construction nightmare or the implementation of No Tax Impact Kindergarten, should be wary of awarding the superintendent a Bottom Line Budget with a Safety Net — make no mistake, emergency spending will become routine if you approve Warrant Article 6.

SAU Budget is a Con:  Let’s talk about the a warrant article ignored by TRSD’s leaflet — Article 8.  Article 8 is not mentioned in the School Board mailing because they would rather no one knew anything about it.  I know all about it.  Keep reading and you will too!  I have lifted this right out of the author’s blog entry on the warrant…

The SAU is a separate corporation, completely independent from the school districts it administers. The SAU drafts its own budget. This budget is then entered as an unchangeable line item in the school districts’ budgets and is automatically approved when the districts’ budgets are approved by voters. Separate corporations with separate budgets should have a separate process of acceptance with voters directly. There is no logical reason to put a budget within a budget. The current arrangement deprives voters of a say with no offsetting benefit to the public whatsoever.
Since the SAU budget is a stand alone budget, it can easily be presented on its own to the voters. Absolutely no additional administrative work would be required. Budgets that do not face the voters are budgets that do not face the highest scrutiny. When public money is on the line, taxpayers want as many eyes looking at expenditures as possible. This a healthy discipline for any corporation being funded by public money.

That makes sense to me.  The SAU Board has rubber stamped this budget for as long as I can remember.  No one has questioned the perpetual increases in pay for the district’s highest earning employees.  No one has questioned funding a bonus for a superintendent’s achieving of as yet undefined goals and objectives.  No one questions anything.  Someone should — that might as well be you and me.

CONclusion: No doubt SAUists will dispute that their flier is electioneering.  When they do, ask why all the warrants were not explained.  Ask why Warrant 8 was ignored.  Ask why its sponsor was not invited to explain the warrant to the electorate.  The rest of us know why — this pamphlet was created using taxpayer resources for the sole purpose of influencing your vote.  And that is called electioneering.

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