The first item on the short Finance Committee agenda Tuesday was a discussion about potential schools-town finance function consolidation. But that dialogue quickly shifted to the committee’s displeasure with the Board of Education.
“I feel duped,” said Town Council Chair Candy Buebendorf.
Bubendorf and committee members Town Councilors Rosetta Jones and Gary Murphy did not mince words as they expressed their frustration with the way the schools spent millions at year-end and its lack of detailed reporting on the spending. The committee had anticipated it would have a detailed reporting of the $2.9 million in end of year expenditures and that report never came.
“We’re tired of delays of not getting facts, “ said Murphy. “We have the right to know what’s what.”
No school board members were present at the meeting.
“We wanted the detail for June and we did not get it,” Finance Director Terry Hart said. “Even if they said we still have bills outstanding you should have a pretty good handle on it.”
In an interview with Montville Patch recently, Schools Superintendent Pamela Aubin said in addition to encumbrances and savings realized as a result of a mild winter, “the Board of Education has directed that we take care of the needs” of the district.
Those needs included $200,000 for roof repair, $160,000 for two buses, $1 million for supplies including textbooks, $200,000 for wireless Internet and more than $230,000 for sick-time payouts for expected retirees.
“We’re not blowing through and wasting $3 million. We can’t carry it over and we don’t know what will come and what the state will (mandate),” Aubin said then.
But councilors were unconvinced. And the failure of the schools to produce detailed reports on year-end expenditures did not sit well.
“I’m pessimistic about the Board of Education. I feel duped about their reporting on their finances,” Buebendorf said. “They’re playing with us.”
Jones said the documents the school department did provide lacks integrity.
“This is it: their report does not have a lot of credibility,” Jones said.
And bottom-lining it, it’s about the millions spent and on what.
“I don’t think smart boards are a necessity,” Jones said by way of example. The boards cost nearly $300,000.
“Not in this economy,” she said.