EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


November 19, 2013

Letter: Explanation for $93K budget hike doesn't add up

To the editor:

Timberlane Superintendent Earl Metzler and George Stokinger, the business administrator for SAU 55, have said repeatedly that because the SAU budget now must stand before voters as a stand-alone budget, it must fund for prospective liabilities it did not budget for in the past.

This is the explanation they offer for nearly $93,000 being added to the SAU’s health insurance line, which has been referred to by the superintendent and at least one Hampstead School Board member as an “unintended consequence” of the successful special warrant article voters passed last March. If you don’t listen to what the school administration is actually saying, you might think this makes sense.

This is what the administration would have you believe: When the SAU budget was a line item in the school districts’ budgets, the SAU didn’t have to budget for potential liabilities such as SAU employees opting into the health insurance plan because the SAU budget was part of a larger budget, something they have been quoted as saying in the past.

So it follows that should the SAU need extra money to fund unexpected liabilities such as health insurance costs, they formerly expected to be able to dip into Timberlane and Hampstead school districts’ budgets.

This never happened, Dr. Metzler said at an SAU meeting at which I raised this point, and further it is ridiculous to suggest so, he said.

Yes, it is ridiculous to suggest this because the SAU is a separate corporation. So why are they saying that because their budget now has to stand alone, they have to budget for all their liabilities when they didn’t before?

There is no answer because their spin is patently absurd. They have stuffed $93,000 into the proposed budget and the default budget either because they are using health insurance as an excuse to inflate the default budget or because they are genuinely afraid Obamacare will cause their four currently opted-out employees to elect the SAU’s health insurance plan. Either way, it has nothing to do with the voters’ wise decision last March to have the SAU budget face the voters.

The 2014-2015 SAU 55 budget is up 10.6 percent. Previously, voters would not have been able to reject such an increase without rejecting the entire school district budget. Now, they can, and I bet they will.

Unfortunately the $93,000 is safely ensconced in the default budget thanks to those Timberlane and Hampstead school board members who approved the SAU budget. Voters are owed a sensible explanation.

Donna Green


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