EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

February 3, 2014

Letter: Claims about Timberlane budget don't add up

To the editor:

Many statements in Timberlane School Board member Peter Bealo’s letter last week (”Timberlane advances while keeping budget modest,” Jan. 30) cannot stand unchallenged.

1) Mr. Bealo claims the school district budget went up only 2.2 percent this year. It is actually up 4 percent because the SAU budget has been removed from the school budget this year. In previous years we paid for the school and the SAU in one bill, so to speak. This year, it is in two bills figuratively speaking. Only by ignoring one bill can the district say its budget went up just 2 percent. If you ran your household by this way of calculating, you’d always be going to relatives for a loan, which may explain why Timberlane cannot come to grips with its budget growth.

2) Mr. Bealo further claims the budget went through an “extensive and very thorough process with the District Budget Committee.” I am a member of that Budget Committee and I can tell you it did not go through any such thing. As just one example: More than 70 percent of the budget is for salaries and benefits yet the committee gets no information whatsoever about current or future staffing metrics. I requested this as a committee member and did not get it. I then made a Right to Know request and was refused. I made another Right to Know request and was again refused. The information is “not available” I was told by Mr. Collins, the School Board chairman. This was my reply: “So I’m to understand that the SAU drafted a budget that includes salaries and benefits for an UNKNOWN number of employees/positions? And that the current budget is also paying salaries and benefits for an UNKNOWN number of positions? I will be going to the attorney general next as this is patently incredible.” After I blogged about this situation on TimberlaneandSandown.wordpress.com, I received the information - in mid-January, more than a month after the budget had been approved by the Budget Committee.

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