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Citizens for Limited Taxation

School budget question to consider Sunday, February 28, 2010
Enzo Rotatori Metrowest Daily News
Town department heads have already begun to prepare budgets for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2010.

Since I am no longer a Town Meeting member, I would like to present to the superintendent of schools, school committee, finance committee, selectmen and Town Meeting members questions that should be answered well before budget votes are taken. Since the school budget represents the largest single portion of that budget, spending cannot continue as in the past.

Every Town Meeting member should know the answers to the following questions:

1. I understand that schools get 60 percent of total town budget. How, when and why did this come about and is this a legally binding agreement?

2. Are there any requirements of the school department to provide Town Meeting members with a copy of the school budget before Town Meeting begins, such as the town budget?

3. I sponsored a resolution on May 20, 2008, which was passed unanimously, which in part read that in the future the total school budget page will be changed to sub-total school budget with an additional page to be included in the budget book to reflect the actual school budget. The initial school budget book failed to follow Town Meeting request. Why?

4. Town Meeting is looking for transparency and full disclosure regarding the school budget. A handout provided during the school budget review showed that FY 2008, the school system spent $137,998,062. The school budget book for that year shows a total school budget of $82.9 million. Why can't the school budget show the actual cost of operating schools? Town meeting members were unaware when they approved this budget that an additional $55 million would be spent that year. That is 66 percent higher than the declared school budget. This information must be made available during the discussion for the current year's school budget.

5. Is there any reason why the school budget cannot be approved on a line item basis as done with the remainder of the Town budget?

For example, under line item review, I would question why we have 24.69 administrators in the school system, each averaging $97,580 in salary? With benefits, this single item adds a cost of more than $3 million to the school budget. The school budget must be line item approved. The ultimate and final remedy is in the hands of Town Meeting. Who among this group will provide the leadership to bring the school budget into line or will they merely be a rubber stamp approval organization?



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