Chariho School Parents’ Forum

February 29, 2008

Sylvia Thompson presents request to Chariho

Filed under: Budget,Hopkinton — Editor @ 11:46 pm

At the Town Council meeting on Monday, Councilperson Thompson presented a request to the Hopkinton Representatives on the Chariho School Committee for a reduction in the Chariho budget.  Beyond a simple request to “reduce the budget,” Thompson documents a plan.  Using Chariho figures, she proposes a level funded budget.

Her letter and attachments are pasted below. 

The only point I would make, and this is really a side point, is that I do not agree with the claim that Chariho’s $1.5M surplus isn’t that much because its only 3% of the budget. This may be the case in a normal industry where labor is not the dominant cost.  But in the case of a public school, labor is (using statewide figures) 80-90% of costs.  We do know that someone at Chariho (or some form filled out there) tells us that $680,000 is the suggested surplus amount to leave in the budget. 

Also, please see Mrs. Thompson’s request below:

February 24, 2008

To: Hopkinton Town Council & Hopkinton School Committee Representatives

Re: School Committee Budgets

From: Sylvia Thompson

I have been reviewing the Chariho Audits. Attached are 5 exhibits I prepared and a variety of back up data. I would like to explain why I believe the proposed school budget should not require any increase in taxation.

            The School Committee compares proposed budgets to budgets and gives the public a % increase. However, when actual expenses are line up side by side to proposed budgets, it is clear they are off by millions and the percentage varies from 8 to over 10% (Exhibits 2, 3 & 4).

Chariho produces Surplus Deficit reports each month that provide up to date actual revenues and expenses. I reviewed past reports back to 2005. The 6 and 7-month reports do indicate if there is under-estimated revenue and over-estimated expenses. Therefore, the data exists right now, for the School Committee to review the 7-month report and propose a reasonable, fair budget. Additionally, by the time the School Committee finalizes the 08/09 budget in March, they will have 8 months worth of actual revenue and expenses.

As previously stated, School Committees have been adopting and presenting budgets that have required increased and unnecessary taxation due to under-estimating revenues and over-estimating expenses. Exhibit 5 illustrates this for revenue

Examples for expenses are many. In Exhibit 3 and 4, Fixed Charges gets over-estimated by millions. In 06 it was by over $1.2 million or 14% then the School Committee’s next budget proposed it be increased by over $1.96 or 21%. The next year the same pattern occurred.

Also, if the school committee had recommended no increase to the towns for FY06, they still would have had a surplus of over $1 million and a fund balance of $3.5 million. Instead, the year ended with a surplus of $2.699 million and the fund balance grew to over $5 million. Remember, this was the year the taxpayers tried to cut $2 million and the public was told it was impossible due to mandates and contracts.

            In FY07, the School Committee adopted a budget requiring an increase to the towns of $2.37 million. This time the surplus expanded to over $2.9 million and the fund balance grew to $6.85 million.

    

P 2

  

Over a three-year period (FY 05, 06, 07), the tri-town contributions increased by $7 million and the accumulated surpluses allowed the fund balance to grow to almost the same amount.

The FY 05 general fund budget expenses were just over $42.67million. Three budgets later, the School Committee is proposing a 21% ($9 million) higher budget, yet, enrollment has fallen to 1997 levels.

            On the positive side, the School Committee has trimmed approximately $594,000 from the General Fund Budget.

Now, we need them to take the next step. The fund balance should be used to completely offset the capital account. This would flat line the tri-town contribution. Many of us have asked that the fund balance be used to do the district wide repairs. The committee listened and allocated $932,000 but not to zero out the town contributions. Instead, they increased the capital account by $678,000. This is not right.

The taxpayers should not be re-taxed for funds to complete repairs when the School Committee already has the millions to cover the entire amount. The capital reserve funding should not be added to the town contributions.

  

Submitted,

Sylvia Thompson

Attachments:

06-07-chariho-budget-revised-breakdown.doc

 

budget-versus-actual-percent-increase-p3.doc

 

budget-versus-actual-chariho-page-4.doc

 

budget-versus-actual-versus-difference-p3.doc

 

budget-versus-actual-percent-increase-p4.doc

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14 Comments »

  1. Mrs. Thompson should be applauded for doing the nitty-gritty work required to dig into these budgets.

    The key message for taxpayers is clear; Chariho has been purposely gouging us for years. This is why Mr. Felkner is given such a hard time for routine information requests. Chariho’s administration and School Committee cannot do their business in the open without getting caught in their lies…whether it be the way they spend our money or the choices they make when educating our children. The administration and School Committee hide because they do business in the shadows.

    What Mrs. Thompson has discovered is not honest mistakes. The manipulation of budget information is done for a reason…to confuse taxpayers and hide the facts. As she documents, it has been going on for years.

    Sadly, politicians from Richmond, Charlestown, and yes, even some from Hopkinton, have gone along with the budget games played by Chariho. I suspect many have been complicit, but at the very least most have been incompetent and derelict in their responsibility to citizens.

    I will not approve another Chariho request for my money until they have their house in order. They have a long way to go.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 1, 2008 @ 12:21 am | Reply

  2. It sounds like a good time ask at the budget meeting , if mandates were ever put on budget items. It has been said that this was an act done during a former school committee members time on the board. Then it could be researched if it has happened. It is to some understanding that the two longest serving school committee members were part of that process. Some is right and someone isn’t.

    Great website a lot of good knowledge coming forth. Thank you, Mrs. Thompson for some ardous work. Your to be commended.

    Comment by James — March 2, 2008 @ 7:21 am | Reply

  3. The $680K figure notwithstanding, it’s clear to me that the school committee should have a published policy on the fund balance it seeks to maintain, along with some rationale that makes sense in terms of CPA recommendations, or bond rating, or something.

    I find Ms. Thompson’s figures here to be compelling, and I will ask the school committee members who represent me to take it seriously.

    Comment by david — March 2, 2008 @ 11:33 am | Reply

  4. The Chariho School Budget Public meeting is TOMORROW Tuesday, March 4th at 7:00 PM in the Chariho Middle School Auditorium. Please attend and make your wishes known.

    Tom buck and I have tried at the budget workshops, Mr. Gosper (from Richmond’s council) was there one evening as well, Jim LaBrosse, and others (I do not know). Hopkinton’s Town Council (last Monday the 25th) had a workshop concerning Mrs. Thompson’s information with our members of the school board (Mr. Day was there as well) and citizens of our town. Your turn. Thanks in advance.

    Comment by BarbaraC — March 3, 2008 @ 7:06 am | Reply

  5. Hi All,
    Yes I attended one useless workshop. Didn’t get to say one word. Big waste of my time. I won’t be there tomorrow because of my job. Excellent budget review done by Sylvia Thompson and I’m not satisfied with the answers. Bob Petit tried to cut positions at the workshop I attended and he was was rejected. At the workshop Barbara asked about teachers aides budget item significantly increasing and was given an inadequate response from Barry Ricci. I’ve seen no other explanation for this part of the budget?

    My wish is for Chariho budgets to be as easy to understand as a personal budget. I’d like to know exactly how much was spent last year before deciding what needs to be spent this year? If there is going to be a surplus then it should be budgeted as a surplus. No more hiding surpluses. Tell us what you need extra and we get to decide if it is reasonable.

    The school committee works hard. They are not experts on budgets and finance. Neither am I. We all need a clearer process. It is our responsibility to our kids to make sure money is being spend smartly and for the right things. Without a more understandable budget we can’t watch over the school like we should. For those able to attend the budget meeting tomorrow please tell us how it goes? Thank you.

    Comment by Jim LaBrosse — March 3, 2008 @ 9:08 am | Reply

  6. Hi!
    This budget STILL needs to be voted on at referendum which is NOT tomorrow. I am voting against. The failure to include an outside management study is enough for rejection.
    Please remember this:
    1.The maintenance of effort requirement. Any budget adopted has to be the same as the previous year with the exception of non recurring expenses and a decrease in student enrollment. A good question is what are these amounts if any?
    2.In the current ADOPTED budget and recent years previously how many line items transfer have been approved by the school committee this year?
    3. Why has the school committee not included an outside management study to
    A. Serve students and residents better by more effectively using funds?
    B. To get a less biased and more objective look look from professionals who know education about the operation of our district?
    C. To look how much of the budget is mandated and contractual and what philosophy is employed to meet them and alternatives to current methods?
    With the decrease in budget caps for municipalities every year and the institutional prohibition for town councils to control school budgets in regional school districts works agains town councils to control local finances.
    It needs to be remembered surpluses are surpluses, and that does NOT include money expended that was discretionary and not necessarily required by law.
    Regards,
    Scott

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — March 3, 2008 @ 11:31 am | Reply

  7. Scott,
    As usual, you’re wrong in stating that just leaving out the management study is enough to vote against the budget. If that was the only thing missing in this budget, I’d vote to pass it in a heart beat. One of the things that bothers me is that they do not provide a budget like any of the three towns do showing both actuals and budgets for prevous years. Something doesn’t smell right with it. If the surplus is as high as what Sylvia Thompson says it is and there is this much over budgeting every year it needs to stop now. Not next year but this year. Unless the School Committee can come up with solid reasons why they over budget so much then I will vote against it. I’ve heard a lot of people who normally support the school budget saying that they will vote against this current budget. Each of the towns is trying to have as little as possible of an increase and so must Chariho. It doesn’t look like they understand this. They are not the ones in charge, we the taxpayers are the ones and have to stand up for ourselves.

    Comment by CharihoParent — March 3, 2008 @ 6:39 pm | Reply

  8. I agree with CharihoParent on all counts. I too agree that these budgets need to give a more accurate reflection of revenues and expenditures, and that the budgets need to have a better history so we as taxpayers can make more informed decisions. As long as they continue to reject these notions, I will be voting “NO.”

    I cannot speak for Mr. Hirst’s decisions. I can not imagine that he would reject the budget because of one item, but that is as it reads.

    Comment by Lois Buck — March 3, 2008 @ 8:37 pm | Reply

  9. I understand Mr. Hirst’s position…why pass a budget spending upward of $50 million per year if we don’t have assurances that our money is being properly managed and utilized?

    Even if there were no surplus, it doesn’t mean we should approve a budget. Wasteful spending can be worse than taking money you don’t need.

    A few years ago Mr. Hirst proposed a cut to Chariho’s budget of $2 million. We now know that he was right and voters in Richmond and Charlestown were wrong when they petitioned for another budget vote so they could put back a significant portion of the budget cut.

    CharihoParent and the rest of the dopes in Richmond and Charlestown should beg Mr. Hirst for his expert opinion. While they ran around convincing themselves the sky was fallen, Chariho was robbing the taxpayers blind. If anyone has been proven to be wrong “as usual” it would be the mind-number robots in Richmond and Charlestown…not Mr. Hirst.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 4, 2008 @ 2:00 am | Reply

  10. CR,
    The problem with Scott’s motion at that time was that it appeared to be a blind move, a stab in the dark. He had said that he knew where the $2M could be cut but never came out with any details. Knowing Scott’s history of being anti-Chariho, even though he’s a graduate of the school district, didn’t help him any. As for calling your name calling, it’s pretty pathetic. Is that what you resort to when you have anything better to say? Who looks like the dope with the name calling that you so often do? Raise your standards, you might actually be heard.

    Comment by CharihoParent — March 4, 2008 @ 4:52 am | Reply

  11. Let’s see…you call Mr. Hirst wrong “as usual” even though he led the charge by Hopkinton to cut a highly inflated budget…yet it is “name calling” when I call the Richmond and Charlestown voters who rejected the budget cut “dopes”? If Mr. Hirst made blind cuts…who kept him in the dark? If the cuts were blind but turned out to be reasonable, then who was really clueless?

    You then accuse Mr. Hirst of being anti-Chariho for supporting parents being able to have more of their own money to spend on their families rather then giving it to Chariho to hold in surplus? Keep in mind that every dollar Chariho lied about in past budgets is a dollar denied a taxpayer in Charlestown, Richmond or Hopkinton. Do you think the money belonged doing nothing at Chariho rather than in the possession of the people who earned it? How many families suffered while Chariho sat on their money?

    I find it enlightening when someone would choose to criticize Mr. Hirst for having identified Chariho budget problems long before the geniuses in Charlestown and Richmond. Where is the criicism for the administration and the School Committee members who have been foisting bogus budgets onto the community for years? Why do they even have their jobs?

    Richmond and Charlestown voters have proven themselves to be dopes. From past budgets that they blindly and foolishly approved, to the agreeing to give even millions more to a dishonest administration with the last bond vote, Richmond and Charlestown voters apparently are devoid of the ability to reason. It’s not too late for them finally to take a stand and join Hopkinton in demanding transparency and accountability at Chariho. Why do I think they’ll fail once more? Dopes.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 4, 2008 @ 12:12 pm | Reply

  12. Saying someone is wrong, is name calling? Since when? Calling people “dopes” is name calling. You just keep showing who the dopes really are around here! Once more I’ll say, I’ve heard that team “dopes” used when Mr. Hirst’s name more than once. He sure showed it last night along with his brother James.

    Comment by CharihoParent — March 5, 2008 @ 11:30 am | Reply

  13. Hi!
    I think my brother can defend himself on his views. However he has done a lot of research on Chariho, is actually degreed in education with a graduate degree no less, a good researcher who graduated last year with High Honors in associates paralegal studies at CCRI and certainly no slouched. I think a person with two associates one with High Honors, the other with Honors, Cum Laude graduate with a bachelors, and a Masters Degree in Health Education is able to hold his own without his big brother.My brother is strong willed and smart. He has done coaching in sports and he relates to young people.
    What I find is this:
    Yes, I made the 2 Million dollar cut but what is not known of never mentioned is the concealment of information to me previous to the meeting by then Supt. John Pini. If you want to see any of the e-mails, I saved please let me know reach me at scottbillhirst@yahoo.com .
    Previously to the budget cut I made I sought out information from the Supt.,. After I was informed by him as to the results of the maintenance of effort amount that year, I was told that could not meet utilities,etc.,. Then I asked him what would it take to cover those amounts. He then said to me by e-mail if i wanted to be his boss run for school commitee and why I didn’t attend budget hearings. Remember this was just after I lost re-election to the town council.
    You need to remember that the school committee in 2005 avoided the fact finding required by the state that they could not operate the school district with the amount approved by the voters. Please remember surplus money is money NOT expended not the amounts that are expended that the school committee does they might not need to expend.
    Stephanie Brown was chairing the school committee at that time and I think her “leadership” and how well she represented Hopkinton along with Lois Russell also from Hopkinton did not exactly with other school committee members did not exactly fight for a better understanding of the budgey you think?
    Yes, I am voting against the school budget solely because of the lack of a management study. We need to understand finances and school management then we do.
    Being Pro Chariho included maximizing our schools academically and other ways. Remember with the maintenance of effort requirement of the state does not our future( the students) and the general public DESERVE more efficiently run schools? More effective use of school dollars opens up program or can lend to expanding programs for the students. The downside of course is NOT for the students or the general public but for the Chariho establishment who would be challenged by outside experts who have examined numerous school districts and can compares “apples to apples, and oranges to oranges!”. Possibly preventing some embarassment to school officials because of a possible recommendations as a result of a study is possibly what this is about. At the very least the objection or delay to a management study is about resistance to more accountability. I think the treatment of those on the school committee who question things speak for themselves.
    Regards,
    Scott

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — March 5, 2008 @ 12:50 pm | Reply

  14. I’m sure CharihoParent realizes calling Mr. Hirst wrong “as usual” is name calling.

    I’m not against name calling. I think it can be very appropriate…like referring to voters who overturned the budget cut of 2005 as dopes. Clearly they are dopes as they fell for the lie that the budget only covered mandated expenses. Unlike calling Mr. Hirst “wrong” when he was right, calling Richmond and Charlestown voters dopes is based on facts. They were duped and they are dopes. No two ways about it.

    Mr. Hirst you shouldn’t defend your 2005 position. Only a complete idiot would attack you for attempting to cut a budget by $2 million when we now know that your cut was too low…there was much more than $2 million in fat.

    The idiots who overturned your 2005 cut are the ones who need to defend themselves. By CharihoParent’s attitude toward you and your brother, I’d guess she was among those fooled in 2005. Or maybe she was among those fooling voters in 2005? You were right then, and no amount of personal attacks on your intellect or your commitment to the community can change the facts.

    The games of 2005 continue today. Mr. Felkner is attacked by many of the same clowns who opposed the 2005 budget cut. These people do not like having their authority challenged. They lie, distort and misrepresent in an effort to hang on to their power. They are relentless. They need to stop wasting our money and harming our children. Those, like CharihoParent, who tolerate and/or support these vile people are dopes…and I’m being nice.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 5, 2008 @ 5:17 pm | Reply


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