Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The undefined budget ‘bleeding’ of 102 cuts….


The other day, as we were comparing notes, Side’s daughter, sarcasm hat firmly in place, said ‘you know what they say, Dad; you can’t put a price on good education.’

It’s beginning to look as well that you can’t put a price on 102 recent position cuts in our school system.

If you’ve been paying attention to school budget theatrics this season, you know that the administration is trumpeting these cuts in recent years.  This is intended, obviously, to pump up public wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth, and inspire choruses of ‘make the bleeding stop!’

It fuels the ‘slashing’ imagery we hear so frequently, including just last week in a public statement to the school board, which we responded to yesterday.

As you know, we have compiled a good deal of budget, staffing, and payroll data for Brunswick’s School Department.  Which has left us wondering about many things.  Remember this passage from a post last month:

Here’s the confusion factor.  When you look at a fiscal year payroll summary, you discover that the number of separate entries in the listing is substantially larger than the number of unique individuals on the payroll.  For example, the FY 09 summary contains 638 entries, but 510 unique individuals, with a salary total of $20,531,342.  The FY 10 summary contains 604 entries, but 481 unique individuals, with a total payroll of $21,122,405.  The FY 11 summary has 575 entries, and 478 unique individuals, for a total payroll of $21,398,876.  These figures imply that 32 individuals left the system in two years, while the payroll increased by  $867,534.

We figure that if you’re going to brag about all those positions you’ve cut to keep the budget in line, you ought to be willing to say how much those cuts have saved, especially since payroll costs have still grown in the latest years for which data is available.  So we posted this request to our Superintendent on Thursday, March 15th:

Mr. Superintendent:

The file transmitted in the message below listed the positions eliminated in the 3 most recent years.

Please provide the annual salary for each of the positions eliminated.


Pem Schaeffer

The file referred to listed the 102 ‘positions’ we had been provided earlier.  After four weeks, we had received no reply.  So we added this missive to his inbox on Friday, April 13th:


It's been four weeks since I made this request.  Please let me know when I can expect to receive the requested data.


Pem Schaeffer

So far, no response to it either, but we will keep you posted.  Maybe one of our readers out there who is better thought of than us could intervene on our behalf; even one from the hundreds over there at Brunswick Community United might be enough to pry the info loose.  Rich Ellis, are you there and listening?

Unless, that is, they don’t really want the details to become public.

You’ve probably heard that a new 3 year teachers’ contract has been approved by the School Board, though it seems a bridge too far to get much in the way of details.  Getting a top of the fold splash on page 1 of The Ostrich, though, is a piece of cake.  We can’t wait for their homily on paying ‘whatever it takes’ for the children and our excellent schools. 

It just might be the centerpiece of one of our first reports on the TV series we have in the planning stage, which we’re considering calling “Hypocrisy Now.'”

You can infer what you will from the Superintendent’s recent comment at HBS on April 9th: “salary and insurance increases projection – $1 million.”  Which has to make you even more curious about the effect of those 102 cuts.  Unless you’re not interested in the least, because it would interfere with your preferred scenario and the talking points you’ve been fed.

This $1 million growth is in the traditional ‘costs beyond our control’ category.  This $1 million growth adds to the already advertised $3 million deficit.  But don’t you worry, the increased compensation will be paid for by ‘a combination of department decreases and the town paying more for education’ per the Superintendent.

While there may still be a touch of doubt in your mind as to how this is all going to turn out, the confidence expressed by the Superintendent tells you all you need to know about the School Board’s role in things, and what the Superintendent expects from the Town Council, and you, the voter, if you even dare to come out.

No comments:

Post a Comment