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Schools Return $14K Budget Balance to Town; BOE Supportive of Year-End Spending

Superintendent Pamela Aubin said the Town Council is not within its authority to require detailed monthly reports beyond the reports already furnished to the town.

 

After all is said and done, year-end encumbrances were realized, supplies paid for, building repairs made, buses purchased, contractual services paid for and adjustments made, the Montville Board of Education is returning $14, 844.73 to the town. 

Superintendent Pamela Aubin told the Board Tuesday that the Town Council’s edict last week “requiring” monthly detailed spending reports is problematic because those reports “contain identifying information” on special education, the release of which may not be allowed.

But she also said money appropriated for schools is to be used at the discretion of the board, under state law.  Adding that the reports that the schools are currently providing are detailed enough and in any event, the town cannot mandate such reports.

At the Council meeting last Monday, the entire council, save for Republican Dana McFee, called for a more detailed accounting on the heels of the year-end spending of $2.9 million by the BOE for myriad items including the purchase of Smart Boards for all classrooms at a cost of around $250,000.

Town Finance Director Terry Hart said the report the district forwards each month “is not useful if you’re looking to see exactly what the spending is. This report, you’re not going to get that.”

Tuesday, schools business manager Kathy Lamoureux handed Montville Patch a 41-page, double-sided report that lists all the spending for the month of June. It is broken down by department and then description. For example, Palmer Academy, textbooks and workbooks for a cost of $2,534.

“That’s great for balancing a checkbook, but no detail,” Hart complained.

And Councilor Gary Murphy, who got the ball rolling when he said last month that he was told the $3 million went to summer teacher salaries.  A few weeks later,  after reading Murphy was angry and said so at a Finance Committee meeting where he and fellow members Town Councilor Rosetta Jones and Town Council Chair Candy Buebendorf shared their frustration with the BOE. At that meeting, Buebendorf

At last week’s council meeting Murphy recapped his frustration.

“I love to go to the BOE, they’re civil, informative,” he said last week. “But on this single issue, on this $3 million, I have received more emails on this $3 million than in anything in my 6 years on this council.” He said the relationship between the council and the BOE has become “strained.”

But BOE chair David Rowley, addressing the Council, described the group as “about as apolitical an organization that you’ll find.”

“We’ve not had a party line vote in my 14 years.” He told the council that June spending, at roughly $3 million is in keeping with what is spent virtually every month.

When one looks at the budget, he said, one sees “that’s the average.”

And Tuesday night, the BOE was on board with Aubin.

Kelly Snyder August 23, 2012 at 11:17 AM
Murphy and his gang of democrats need to stop trying to ruin the board of Education. As far as I know it is the only branch of the Montville government that's runs effectively and professionally. Stop the politics and do something useful for Montville.
Terry Loftis August 23, 2012 at 11:58 AM
Finance Director Hart is an employee of the Town and is now is now involved in one of the most obscene political power plays any party has ever done in this Town. The accusations by members of the Town Council are to set the stage for the next election cycle in order to replace the majority of the Board of Ed. Suggestions; 1. The Finance Department of the is a non political department and therefore should not be involved with such partisan attacks. 2. Director Hart should immediately stop and if not resign. 3. The members of the Democratic party on the Board of Education should remind their fellow Democrats on the Town Council that they have, in total, completely supported the expenditures. 4. Every man, women and child should express their dissatisfaction with the 6 members of the Town Council for making the school system a political football. Thanks for reading my rant!
CNR August 23, 2012 at 01:53 PM
How is "a 41-page, double-sided report that lists all the spending for the month of June...broken down by department and then description" not detailed enough? I really don't understand the councils issue. I just dont think they are sophisticated enough to grasp the budget process. Budgets are developed year by year, not day by day. So you get a fixed amount at the beginning of a Fiscal Year and need to manage that budget. If you save for a rainy day in that year, but the rain never comes, it's not necessarily prudent to return those resources when you still have existing needs since there is no guarantee on what the following years budget is. Next, the issue with withholding specifics on the spending for special education has to do with privacy issues. A child who has certain special needs or education requirements should not have those disclosed to the public. Finally, when the town council and most of the town citizens do not have a sophisticated grasp of school budgets and think schools and governments should run their finanaces like a household does, I don't blame the school for not being particularly forthcoming. The council and citizens would most likely not be able to handle that info appropriately and would reach conclusions that would be incorrect. Does there need to be reasonable accountability? Sure. But I dont know that I see any particular cases of funds used inappropriately.
Donna Geary August 23, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Very well said, CNR. I hope your comment can help others understand the budget process.
Ellyn Santiago (Editor) August 23, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Jump on our Facebook page where there's more discussion on this story. https://www.facebook.com/MontvilleCTPatch
Julie K. August 23, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Kudos to the BOE. They had a choice use the money to maintain our schools and help our kids or return it to the council so they could squander it on thier pet projects and multiple lawsuits. Thank god montville has a great BOE and good leadership in the schools. If the council ran the BOE we would be like new London and need federal oversight
Sarah Mae Wegins August 23, 2012 at 04:37 PM
All comments I have read are valid arguments. But as stated in the second comment this is a political attack on the Republicans since they control the Board. The Democratic Town Council will deliberately mislead the voters because they want complete control of the town governments, municipal and education department. I do not know if the leader of the Democratic Party fashions himself as "Boss Tweed" or Tamany Hall's "Carmine DeSapio". In any event you are and will continue paying to much in taxes because of power hungry politicians who only have their own self interests at heart.
Karen Soper August 23, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Sarah, I for one can see thru the political power play and stupidity that's going on. I vote based on fact and I can tell you for fact that I will NOT be voting for these clowns next year.
Toni August 23, 2012 at 05:23 PM
I must be confused. I thought the Board of Ed (elected by the residents of Montville) decides how to spend the dollars allocated in the budgeting process. Seems to me the Town Council is over stepping bounds. This towns political process is a joke.
Pete J August 24, 2012 at 12:39 AM
God forbid somebody should ask why the BOE had so much extra money and how they spent it. This is why we have checks and balances. So get off your soap boxes.
Joy August 24, 2012 at 12:52 AM
How is it that we as taxpayers are renovating the kitchen in the superintendents office but we can't have full day kindergarten.?!?!
Helen Rameos August 24, 2012 at 03:31 AM
Joy there is no kitchen in the superintendents office. Bad info
CB August 24, 2012 at 04:21 AM
So where did all those nice new kitchen cabinets get installed at?
CB August 24, 2012 at 04:30 AM
To all of you who think asking where YOUR money goes is overstepping, that's just foolish. We are all people and there are mistakes made all the time, that is why there are checks and balances to make sure mistakes are caught. I think that when certain people make mistakes, even when elected by residents, they should come forward and admit it instead of hiding behind the details in some law that say you don't have to provide line item detail on how you spend $3 million dollars in 2 weeks. I think that if someone took $3 million dollars from a company and started buying an over abundance of supplies just to use the budget so that it is not taken away the next year, heads would roll, but nope, not in town politics, we just brush it under the rug and cross our fingers that no one pays attention. Shame on us as residents and shame on people holding positions of authority for not raising their hand and saying yes we messed up.
CJ August 24, 2012 at 11:54 AM
CB, I'm not sure what your point is. The money spent was accounted for every penny. it was even listed in a patch article. I don't think anyone is really upset that the money was used for the kids to maintain the buildings, buy a bus and other needed items. The real issue is the council wants a list each month of what was spent and they get that but they can not have the list with students names on it. That is a violation of the law. The other issue is the council at the beginning wanted control over what the BOE purchased but by law they do not have that control. It's really all a stupid political stunt that in my opinion is a waist of time. We should be focused on helping our residence not political grandstanding.
CB August 24, 2012 at 02:41 PM
I think the experts in the education field should have control over what to buy. My field is accounting not education, I don't know what the latest supplies are, but I do know numbers. I as a resident have a problem when $3 million dollars is left over at the end of the year and there is a panic to spend it in a period of 2 weeks because people in education "power" are afraid to loose that budgeted money for the next year. I don't believe I am political grandstanding as CJ stated but more being a good steward of my own money that I give the town. From a financial standpoint, having 10% ($3 MILLION) of the schools budget being blown through in 2 weeks seems like something that I as a concerned citizen should have the right to know details to. Also, there are all sorts of rumors flying around town that in those 2 weeks there was money spent on needed items, but there more than necessary purchased. So if you look at the line items and it tells you how many smart boards, etc that was purchased it won't look funny, until you actually start looking at what our schools/classrooms actually needed and asked for. If we really look into it I have a feeling more than what was asked for was purchased in an effort to spend that $3 million dollars FAST so the money wasn't taken away in the next years budget. There are just too many suspicious comments, accusations, rumors going around town that have not been answered by the people actually spending the money.

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