To the Editor:
Recently the paper published a letter from Joseph Broderick, President BBOED, under the caption, “Setting the record straight.” The truth is the letter is nothing more than a thinly disguised attempt to shift the blame to the former board for the shortcomings of the elected board. The facts are as follows:
The prior board set aside monies during the negotiation of the teachers’ contract, which was settled in September of 2014 and ended June 31, 2015. The contract was settled and there was enough money to pay everyone retroactively and through June of 2015. All the vendors and employees got paid.
The prior board increased the tax levy for the 2015-2016 budget to pay for the new contract and projected increases in expenditures. We were accurate in our estimates as the State auditors found a surplus for the 2015-2016 fiscal year of over $2 million.
What led to the reporting of a shortfall by the internal audit was a failure by the board to understand that the budget is a management tool to guide it. It is a living breathing document which needs to be monitored and adjusted during the year. The failure to make the requisite reconciliation transfers to balance the budgeted expenditures with the actual expenditures at the end of the fiscal year in June 2016 caused a bookkeeping shortfall. Monies that were actually spent were not accounted for as they were still available in various accounts to balance the books. The internal auditors were only reporting what they found. The accounts appeared to be overspent because the board made no adjustments to the encumbered accounts to cover the actual expenditures.
There was no overspending of $18 Million by the appointed board. No checks bounced, all the employees were paid. All the budgets were reviewed and audited by the County and the State.
The elected Board failed to increase the tax levy for the 2016-2017 budget enough in the spring of 2016 to properly fund the expected expenditures and potential new contract requirements.
The panicked austerity measures which were taken by the Board were self inflicted since there was no deficit as indicated by the auditors. The elected board had no idea how much money it would take to run the district. The problem was that the board created a budget for 2016-2017 that it could not and did not want to pay for. Had the board increased the tax levy in its 2016-2017 budget by 5.86 percent, as recommended by central office, to match the expected expenditures, the layoffs would not have been necessary except to pay for the two year contract negotiated by the elected board. The proof is that you ultimately increased the tax levy in your 2017-2018 budget by 5.62 percent on top of the increase of 2.86 percent in your 2016-2017 budget. The elected board spent money to settle a two year contract with money it didn’t have in its budget and it covered with the layoffs.
Looking for someone to blame is always counterproductive. The reserves, which were carefully built up over the years, have been depleted. We can only hope that the last increase in the tax levy will be enough to carry us into the future. I remain hopeful that you will be able to explain to 1,000 or so employees why they will not be able to get a raise because 100 or so teachers will be getting $4,500,000 over a three year period. Do the math, it is later than you think.
MICHAEL MASONE, Esq., former Board Member on Finance
PATRICK O’DONNELL, former Board Member on Finance
WILLIAM LAWSON, former Board President