Monday, January 2, 2012

Unfinished business: Budget is late

Posted: Monday, January 2, 2012 12:15 pm

WINCHESTER — Budgeting is never easy. But in Winchester this year, it’s off to an especially difficult start.
When the budget committee presents the proposed school district budget to the public Tuesday evening, it will be something of a first step. That’s because the budget committee doesn’t have its budget recommendation yet — it’s waiting to see what the public has to say about the school board’s recommended budget, according to budget committee Chairman Brian D. Moser.
It is up to the budget committee to set the budget residents vote on in March; voters, however, can cut or add (up to 10 percent) to the proposal if they think it’s too high or low.
The school board’s recommended budget is $11.5 million, about $376,000, or 3.4 percent, more than the current year’s budget. It includes a $267,500 increase for special education and a $140,000 increase in special education transportation.
The district ran a $326,800 deficit for the 2010-11 school year, in part due to higher-than-anticipated special education and transportation costs.
School officials say these increases are necessary. Things like tuition to Keene High School and teachers’ salaries are contractual, said Jim Lewis, Winchester School principal. (The district has Winchester School for students in kindergarten through 8th grade; older students attend Keene High School.)
Moser disagrees.
“No, I’m not happy with the budget. Me personally, I’m not happy with it at all,” he said.
The board’s recommendation also came to the budget committee too late — on Dec. 16 — for committee members to review it and have their own recommendation ready to go by Tuesday’s hearing, Moser said.
It was late in part because Winchester formed its own administrative unit and started a new accounting system this summer, said the district’s superintendent, Kenneth R. Dassau.
He agreed it would have been better to get the recommendation to the budget committee earlier, but that committee didn’t have to wait on the school board to get started on its own recommendation.
Kevan D. Whippie, who is on the school board and its representative on the budget committee, called the committee’s idea of having no budget recommendation to present “a farce.”
“The school board is not charged with spending the least you can on education,” he said. “The school board is supposed to provide an adequate education to the children of Winchester, and that costs money.”
While the budget committee hasn’t decided on exactly how much money, it has thrown out one number.
Early last month, frustrated with the school board’s slow response, the budget committee voted to set the budget at $8 million. Moser said that was a deliberately unrealistic target and set only to send the school board a message that it was taking too long.
“We know it’s not final. We know it’s going to go up,” he said.
But Dassau called the $8 million move “grossly irresponsible” and said if the budget is set that low, Winchester School would have to close.
“I think they need to be careful what statements they make as public officials.”
The budget committee has until the end of January to make its recommendation.

The Winchester School District budget hearing is scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.
Abby Spegman can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1409, or

 Below are the email addresses of the school board members, let them know what you think about holding the town hostage to their demands.


relick said...

Congratulations Winchester Budget Committee, Its about time someone stands up to these school boards and the SAU's. As a former Governor of VT said in his acceptance speech a few years ago," We are being held hostage by the people in charge of education and it needs to change."

the Winchester Informer said...

In case anyone forgot what happened at the School Deliberative Session, or did not attend, here's an account of what transpired;

The Moderator for the School Deliberative, Henry Parkhurst, began the evening by introducing the school board members seated in the front, the staff members and the elected officials. He then asked for a show of hands of parents. He proceeded to explain the etiquette of the evening, before stating, “Now, this can be a quick meeting. If you vote yes we can be out of here in three minutes. If you vote no, we will be here longer discussing it.” No sooner had he finished reading the first warrant article that School Board member, Colleen Duquette, raised her hand and stated, “I move that we accept this article as written.” Kevan Whippie (or the “young whipper snapper” that Ms. Castle fondly referred to him), raised his hand to second her motion. Coleen then asked if this was the appropriate time to ad an amendment to the article. The moderator informed her that it was and Kevan Whippie stood up to the microphone and started to read his amendment. The moderator interrupted him and informed him that Ms. Duquette had the floor. She then stated, “Oh, that’s OK, he can read it for me.” The moderator then acknowledged Mr. Whippie as having the floor. Already two signs that the entire meeting was being orchestrated by their script. Fortunately for them, they had a small audience, since only approximately 40 town’s people bothered to show.

Mr. Whippie amended the first warrant’s dollar amount from the Budget Committee’s $9,747,111.00 back to the School’s original amount of $10,006,293.00. He then gave an passionate speech about all of the long hours spent creating this budget and he wanted to honor the School for a job well done. It was a slap in the face not to use their budget as originally requested. He sat down and Ms. Castle came to the microphone to give a speech about how wrong it was of the Budget Committee to take away any programs or supplies from the teachers. She held back tears and apologized for her emotional outburst. Mr. Parkhurst informed her that we should never apologize for our emotions. Ms. Stephanie Tommilla also stood and said that all she needed this year was rulers for her students and to please allow this amount to go through, so she could get her rulers. Budget Committee member, Rick Horton, stood up to defend the amount that they came with as only being the estimated figure of “fat” that the School Board padded the budget with each year and “returned” to the town every year. Technically this amount never comes back, but is deducted from the following year budget. The committee agreed that it was not necessary to continually give them an interest free loan of the tax payers money. But his comments were lost .

con't below

the Winchester Informer said...

Sherman Tedford asked the school board how they voted on the Budget Committee’s amount and they completely skirted the issue and had answers that had nothing to do with the question. School board member, Brian Moser, held up his hand to be acknowledged but was completely ignored. The moderator then had SAU 38 Tom O’Connor respond and then asked Mr. Tedford if his question had been answered adequately, and he mumbled, “No. They completely missed the question.” The moderator finally allowed Mr. Moser to speak, “We voted 4-1 against the Budget Committees amount, with me in favor of it.” The Chairman of the Board, Gary O’Neal then grabbed his microphone and corrected him by saying, “We strongly voted it down.”

Teresa Seppe then inquired about the Special Education funds and how much money was deposited this year into that account - she wanted to know how she should vote on Warrant Article No. 4. Colleen did not know what the exact amount was. Mr. O’Connor also did not know what the amount was, all the while the Budget Committee members (who appeared to have spent more time studying the numbers) said that it was $150,000.

Town Clerk, James Tatro, took the floor to ask about the fuel that was repurchased for this year and the 38 computers purchased. He asked if the budget then showed a surplus. He too received a run around to finally hear that NO there was not a surplus. He then went to explain his reason for the questions and was cut short by the Moderator, “we are not here for your opinion. Please sit down.”

The moderator became incensed with Mr. Horton when he stepped up to the microphone to say that they amounts they had given were a lie and that the amount was $150,000. He informed him that he was not following the etiquette.

Colleen then moved that the public input be closed and proceed to vote on the issues. There were three votes and a great deal of confusion on what was being voted on.
In the end, Mr. Whippie/Colleen Duquette’s amendment passed and the meeting was suddenly over with no one ever discussing the rest of the warrant articles.

Concerned said...

I remember all that. It was deplorable. Thanks for the refresher. Lets not let it happen again.