PLAISTOW — Timberlane Superintendent Earl Metzler has criticized a Budget Committee member for speaking out against the proposed budget.
After committee member Donna Green spoke at a Sandown selectmen’s meeting last month on the effect the budget had on the town’s tax rate, Metzler said it was too early to be commenting on the budget process.
“As we speak, it’s still a work in progress,” Metzler said. “What one budget committee member is doing is inappropriate, inaccurate and irresponsible. When you step outside of that process, you complicate work and delay progress.”
But Green said it is her responsibility to inform the public.
“I’m a representative of my constituency,” she said. “I think my constituents deserve to know what’s going on in every step of the process. I have no problem alerting my constituency of an impending problem.”
Green, a Sandown resident, spoke at the selectmen’s meeting after receiving her tax bill in the mail. Sandown’s tax rate is $27.08 this year, up $6.30 from last year.
“The school district is responsible for 81 percent of the increase in my tax bill this year,” Green said. “I wanted Sandown residents to be aware that there’s another increase coming.”
She said the proposed budget for the 2014-2015 year is $66,805,941. That does not include the School Administrative Unit budget, which is separate from the district’s budget for the first time this year. That budget is proposed at $1,113,642. The combined total of those two budgets — $67.9 million — is $2.8 million higher than last year’s budget of $65 million.
Metzler said it was out of line for Green to be criticizing a proposed budget.
“We have two additional meetings scheduled,” he said. “The Budget Committee is working diligently to get to a number that we are comfortable at. I feel we’re in a great spot, but to be jumping out in the middle of a process just to shock someone is irresponsible.”
Metzler said Green should not be speaking on behalf of the board.
“When a board elects a chair, the chair is the spokesperson,” Metzler said. “Individuals who put their own spin on things to the public isn’t helpful to the process.”
Budget Committee Chairman Gregory Spero could not be reached for comment.
Metzler also took issue with Green’s assertion that the district is responsible for the tax rate hike in Sandown.
“There are two things that drove tax rates everywhere, not just at Timberlane,” Metzler said. “Retirement and health care. Those were unfunded mandates we had to adjust into our budget. That couldn’t be any more clear, especially to someone on the Budget Committee.”
Green said she has recommended several changes to this year’s budget, which have been overruled.
“We’re carrying a $2 million surplus and are over-budgeting departments,” Green said. “I know we have to have a contingency, but I’m not saying we strip all the surplus money, I say we make it tighter.”
Full-day kindergarten would be one of the areas Green would cut.
“Three hundred ten thousand dollars for full-day kindergarten, that should be stripped and made into a warrant article,” she said.
Budget Committee member Jason Grosky said now is the time for the public to ask questions about the process.
“It’s hard to criticize the budget on a whole when it hasn’t been finalized,” Grosky said. “But you can’t sit down and be silent, waiting for the end. If you do that, then you’ve done nothing. The time to question and raise issues is now. There is no final deadline on when the right time is to say anything.”
Green said there was only one thing the public could do to change things.
“I just want to notify people that this is in the works,” she said. “If people want to do something about this then they should attend the deliberative session.”
The deliberative session is scheduled for Feb. 6.