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Finance Committee Says It Feels 'Duped' by Board of Ed

Schools spent $2.9 million at the end of the fiscal year and the town wants a specific accounting.

 

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.

Buebendorf agreed.

“Not in this economy,” she said. 

Chuck Longton August 01, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Quote: "Does the council really know what was in the education budget?" Dave - I tried and was rebuffed at every turn. This being my first term as a Councilor I was unprepared for the snow job I got. I didn’t expect that, not from my own school board. Political suicide? Maybe. But I didn’t take this job for the purpose of getting re-elected. Let the voters decide. There are hard choices to be made and I promised to not hide from them. I’ve got 1 more BoE education budget to look at before this term expires and trust me – this time I will be prepared. I will be going over every line item with a fine tooth comb. If it’s justified I will fight hard for that line item but if it’s not justified, I will call them out on it publically. Our kids deserve the very best we can afford to give them – optimal word being “afford”. But that does not mean we must spend scarce dollars on things that don’t need to be funded “this year”. Everybody in this town is sharing the pain of a bad economy and it really upsets me that they thought so little of the sacrifice we are all making trying to make ends meet.
Howard August 01, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Here they come! Nothing like a BOE budget discussion to draw the union types out of the woodwork. I do have to admit however, that I sort of admire their dedication to the union however misguided it might be. I wonder how they are going to react when the town files for bankruptcy. Probably go on strike.
Chuck Longton August 01, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Kelly, I am not trying to devalue Montville’s educational system. To the contrary, I want us all to be proud, not only of our schools and our kids’ education but also with the way the schools are run. Personal responsibility is taught by personal example. But it’s really hard to teach our kids to be responsible adults when the school board hides $3 million dollars of the taxpayers’ money and then spends it without authorization. What kind of example does that set for our kids? “Do what I say, not what I do”? Our kids deserve better than that.
Dana McFee August 01, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Duped? Unauthorized spending? This was all spelled out by Superintendent Aubin a month ago ( see path article) ‘Schools $3 Million Spent On Needs From Buses To Smart Boards‘ It appears certain democrats are looking to get some mileage on this issue. We the people of Montville elect a Board of Education consisting of nine members 5 republicans and 4 democrats all responsible and intelligent and work well together despite their party affiliation (unlike this town council) these individuals are charged by the electorate to oversee our education system and act in the best interest of the town. I highly doubt they are part of some underhanded scheme to screw the taxpayer. Personally I’ll give the Board of Ed the benefit of the doubt,
Kelly August 01, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Great point dana!! Chucky is missing the point that he does not have the control over the Board Of Ed. That is there job to spend the money where needed after it is appropriated by the Town.
Safety59 August 01, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Chuck, You amaze me. Your complaining that the school board did such a good job managing the money the town gave them. And using the extra to keep ahead of the curve. Yet you were behind on your taxes, sewer and had a lien on your house from a water company. Maybe you should do as well as the school board did with your money.
Chuck Longton August 01, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Kelly and Safety it is you who are missing the point. I have no hardship with money being spent on authorized items that the BoE says it needs. I do have a hardship with the BoE spending money without that authorization. They had a budget. That budget authorized them to expend funds on specific things *that were in that budget*. They are not authorized to spend money on anything that is not in the budget or been otherwise authorized by the Council. Doing so is unlawful. That is what I have a hardship with. They spent out the budget and still had $3 million of unassigned funding left over from what was authorized to expend ON BUDGET ITEMS ONLY. They had no right to spend that leftover money without Council authorization. They could have come to the council and asked for authorization and that would have prevented all this controversy. But they didn’t ask. They just went ahead and spent what didn't belong to them on stuff they were not authorized to buy. THAT is the point, not WHAT they spent it on.
J. Lincoln August 01, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Chuck, stop misleading people. You are politicizing a non issue since the BOE does not have to comply with your wants. I can also tell you that as a forty year resident of Connecticut separation of general government from education is an excellent system. One only has to look at Montville's Council to know what I mean. You and five of your associates on that body are solid proof not knowing what your talking about. The BOE was smart enough to amass a surplus and has every right to spend it as they see fit. I hope the BOE stands firm and ignores this political grandstanding. It is counterproductive and meaningless.
Chuck Longton August 01, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Quote: "The BOE was smart enough to amass a surplus and has every right to spend it as they see fit." You do not understand the law then. The BoE does not have the lawful right to "amass a surplus". That's why they spent it, because they are not allowed to keep it. Didn't you pay attention to what Ms. Aubin said? Amassing a surplus of public funds, hiding that fact from the lawful governing body and then spending it without authorization are all against the law.
Brighter Future For Montville August 01, 2012 at 09:27 PM
Its seems that Mr. McFee and some other commenters need to show up at some these public meetings like some of us concerned taxpayers!!! Some of us taxpayers have done our homework and at this meeting some interesting FACTS were disclosed, particularly how the school buses were purchased. Though I do agree with SOME of the purchases, others should have been funded under capital improvements. An end of the month blanket purchase order for $10,000.00 to Montville Hardware????????? Clearly a way to carry monies over into the next fiscal year...borders on the edge of illegal. If the Board of Education won't cooperate with its taxpayers or its elected officials, I think its time for the attorney general's office to investigate. The Board clearly needs to reread the town charter.
Safety59 August 01, 2012 at 10:02 PM
News flash chuck, the board or Ed not the council approved the spending. The board approved the expenditures therefore making your argument a mute point. Stop the grand standing.
J. Lincoln August 01, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Chuck, they ended up with a surplus and spent in the same fiscal year. They didn't keep and carry it over. That is absolutely permissible. Were is the problem? Apparently you are of the opinion that it should have been turned to the Town's general fund. Their responsibility is to the educational needs of the town. Isn't that what they did?
Chuck Longton August 01, 2012 at 10:48 PM
News flash safety - The Board of Ed does not have the legal authority to approve spending on items that are not listed in the budget. The Town Council authorized the BoE to expend funds up to an approved amount on Budget items ONLY. Once the budgeted items are satisfied, any remaining funds cannot be spent *for anything* without specific Town Council approval.
J. Arrington August 02, 2012 at 12:39 AM
Chuck, where did you get the idea that: Once the budgeted items are satisfied, any remaining funds cannot be spent *for anything* without specific Town Council approval? Oh, that's right only when the Democrats control the Board of Education is that acceptable. Spendocrat's trying to change their ways to suit a few versus the many in town. Typical political hypocrisy!
Saftey59 August 02, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Chuck where do you get your information? The board of Ed is atoninus from the town. You have no control over line items, expenditures, or hiring. You better get your facts straight your starting to sound misinformed and silly
Brighter Future For Montville August 02, 2012 at 01:53 AM
Safety59, please get your facts straight as well. The Board of Education is AUTONOMINOUS from the Town Council, but not from the town. Please refer to the town charter. It seems to be ignored regularly. It seems strange that the BOE check register and other financial details were not provided to the Finance Director for THE TOWN OF MONTVILLE, not the " town of BOE".
Chuck Longton August 02, 2012 at 02:08 AM
The BoE was not given a blank check. They were authorized to expend "up to" a specific amount of money *on the budgeted items* - only. They are not authorized to expend any monies on non-budgeted items. That does not mean they have to spend all the money. If any of you think otherwise then ask your employer what they would do to you if you did to them what the BoE did to the town's taxpayers. True, the Council does not have line-item veto on the school board budget. But the Town Council does get to say how much money may be allocated for expenses "defined in the school board budget". Unauthorized spending of the taxpayer's money on any items NOT in the budget is at the very least a violation of the taxpayer's trust and may actually be a criminal offense.
J. Arrington August 02, 2012 at 02:19 AM
Mr. Longton, since you are using quotation marks in your comments, could you reference which documents you are using as your sources of information? Before you talk about any violation of taxpayer's trust or criminal offenses, maybe you should get your own house in order first.
Sam Rogers August 02, 2012 at 07:12 AM
Indeed, Conn. Gen. Statutes Sec. 10-222 grants discretion to boards of education to do precisely what is now being objected to: "Each local board of education shall prepare an itemized estimate of the cost of maintaining public schools for the ensuing year and shall submit such estimate to ... the authority making appropriations to the school district, not later than two months preceding the annual meeting at which appropriations are to be made. The money appropriated by any municipality for the maintanance of public schools shall be expended by and in the discretion of the board of education ... any such board may transfer any unexpended or uncontracted-for portion of any appropriation for school purposes to any other item of such itemized estimate. ..." It follows that the Board of Education may tell the Town Council that it would like to spend a million dollars on textbooks and a thousand dollars on athletics, then once the funds have been appropriated, do just the opposite. Anyone outraged by such an exercise of discretion by the Board of Education certainly has every right to vote accordingly come next election day. Mr. Longton stated above that "during the budget hearings the school budget was nothing more than a list of things they wanted to spend money on." But under the language of Sec. 10-222, such a list may be all that is required. As far as any crime goes, expecting a prosecutor to see fraud in any exercise of lawful discretionary power seems very remote.
J. Lincoln August 02, 2012 at 10:32 AM
Mr. Longton, give it up. You and your colleagues are politicizing lawful rights of the BOE. You may feel you have a legitimate argument but it is a not a good one from a legal point of view or piratical for that matter.
Mike August 02, 2012 at 10:57 AM
Chuck after reading statue It appears most of your comments are incorrect. What I really would like to know is were you at EB working yesterday when you had time to keep responding to these comments?? I hope your not duping the government on time. I will send an FOI to find out.
Saftey59 August 02, 2012 at 11:06 AM
Brighter future for montville, you know first hand the BOE will provide any information you ask for. They hide nothing. As for the Town finance director getting copies of the check register maybe she did not ask for it, but based on what I have seen even if she had it she would not know what to do with it. Let's be glad we have such a good school board that is void of the silly politics that the town is plagued with currently. I for one am happy with the job they have been doing. Also keep in mind for the past two years they were given little if any money for Capitol items. They had no choice but to use the left over money to purchase much need buses and repairs. Stop attaching for political gain all can see thru it .
Chuck Longton August 02, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Sam- (1 of 2) Quote: “The money appropriated by any municipality for the maintenance of public schools shall be expended by and in the discretion of the board of education. Except as provided in this subsection, any such board may transfer any unexpended or uncontracted-for portion of any appropriation for school purposes to any other item [[of such itemized estimate]].” (Ct General Statute Sec 10-222) I requoted a portion of the statute you quoted. Notice what I bracketed for you. (The brackets draw attention to specific wording.) Notice it says “of such itemized estimate”. That’s the budget the school BoE submitted to the Council. What the statute is saying is that the school board may transfer funds from one line item in the budget to any other line item in the budget and expend whatever monies it sees fit on any of those line items regardless of the figure originally submitted without asking permission from anybody. For example, their budget may have estimated $500 for pencils. Later they realized it should have been $5,000 for pencils. The portion of the statute I bracketed allows them to transfer money from any other line item in its budget to this line item to buy pencils without asking anybody for permission. So long as it stays within the “structure” (line items) of the budget, the BoE is authorized to expend the monies appropriated by the town any way it sees fit on the line items in the budget - at their own discretion and without consulting anybody.
Chuck Longton August 02, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Sam- (2 of 2) But nowhere in the statute is that same discretion extended to using any portion of the “uncontracted-for monies (left over or surplus monies) for any items that are NOT in the budget. They can, at their discretion, move money around all over the place to cover whatever situations they face, but only on things that are listed in their budget. Every expenditure must be tied somehow to one of the line items in the budget. That is what the statute says. That’s the part of the statute that you missed. So the BoE had nearly $3 million of “uncontracted-for monies left over after covering all the expenses listed in the budget. It they had used that money to stock up on things that were listed somewhere in the budget, things that actually had a line item number, everything would have been just fine. They could have purchased 50,000 gallons of oil, prepaid for next year’s educational trips, paid ahead on their electric bill, purchased any number of things that were in the budget “somewhere” and that had a line item number. The statute allows them to expend anything they want on any line-item purchases, so long as they don’t exceed the town appropriated funding. The problem begins when they start spending town appropriated monies on things that do not have a line item number in that “itemized estimate”. The state statute does not allow them to do that. All expenditures must be against a budget line item. They cannot spend outside the budget.
Dana McFee August 02, 2012 at 09:06 PM
geeze Chuck give it a rest!!! Talk about beating a dead horse!!
Chuck Longton August 02, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Obviously the horse wasn't dead because they didn't get it. The BoE is not lawfully allowed to spend money that the town appropriated for budgeted items on non-budget items.
Sam Rogers August 02, 2012 at 10:23 PM
Chuck, "Itemized estimate" are the statutory words, which I accurately quoted. Nowhere are those words defined as a "budget," with or without "line items" or "line item numbers." I did not miss that part of the statute. It simply doesn't say those things. Absent caselaw interpreting Sec. 10-222 to the contrary, an "itemized estimate" could be drawn on the back of an envelope. Your examples of "oil," "field trips," or "electric bill" are certainly some of the ways an estimate could be itemized, but nothing in the statutory language requires that particular level of specificity - indeed, one could imagine an "itemized estimate" consisting only of "salaries" and "non-salary costs." Courts may have addressed the question of what constitutes an "itemized estimate," but no further definition is to be found on the face of the statute itself. If the Town Council believed that what was presented to it by the BofE did not sufficiently constitute an "itemized estimate," it probably should have addressed the issue then, through legal action if necessary, BEFORE appropriating any funds. Once the money was appropriated, the BofE's discretion to "transfer any unexpended or uncontracted-for portion of any appropriation for school purposes to any other item of such itemized estimate" cannot be questioned. If what you're saying is that the BofE transferred appropriated funds to "items" not included on its "itemized estimate," that could be an abuse of its discretion, if true.
Mike August 02, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Chuck pay your bills and let the BOE handle their money that best serves the school system.
CB August 24, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Very well said, agreed!
CB August 24, 2012 at 03:30 PM
So how are all of you Montville residents ok with the school spending money for things not previously budgeted for. Do you like paying more taxes? Do you like the superintendent being able to remodel her office kitchen cabinets while teachers are being layed off because of lack of funds? Just curious, but seems fishy too me.

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