SAU: Send an Administrator to College Instead of our Kids

In typical fashion, the SAU Administration, with the Board’s blessing is presenting an increased budget again.  And one of the big “drivers” (to use one of their favorite catch phrases) is proposing to almost double the tuition reimbursement for Administrators to work on their doctorates.  Never mind that many of us have to struggle for our kids to go to get an Associates or Bachelors degree.  Never mind that they already are earning some of the highest salaries in the town,  Never mind that the line item was already double the amount that is allocated for our teachers tuition reimbursement on a per capita basis.

Don’t you all feel sorry for these poor administrators.  Aren’t they more important than our kids.  Come on folks, get your priorities straight.

Budget Proposal of 3/4 of a Million $ Increase

Break Open your Wallets.  The School Administration is at it again.  Monday night the administration presented the School Board with it’s proposed budget for next year.  In what was scheduled for two meetings so the Board could ask questions and inform itself the Board hardly blinked at the increase, cancelled the second meeting and closed the meeting after about an hour and a quarter.

The majority of the increase was attributed to Court Imposed, Out of District Special Ed placements.  Claiming no ability to do anything about them, the Administration added them to the current budget that apparently has a $400,000.00 hole due to these placements.

Where were suggestions on ways to cut other items to help pay for these?  Apparently non-existent.   With fuel prices down, perhaps the Maintenance Budget could be looked at?  Nope, apparently that needs a $25,000.00 increase and a new truck on top of that.

How about staffing?  The Board kept two unneeded teachers this year when they couldn’t stand up to crying teachers at a Board meeting.  With Student population down another 25 students this year, it’s time to make some tough choices.

Please call your Board Members and tell them to wake up.  We can’t afford this any more.

War on Volunteers

At it’s meeting on November 18, 2014, the Hillsborough Selectboard fired another shot across the bow of “Volunteerism”.   Selectmen Fullerton & Urquhart out-voted Selectperson Wendy Baker to put Peter Brigham in charge of the Manahan Park program.

Selectboard Chair Dave Fullerton had summoned the Park Board to a Non-Public session at the beginning of the meeting, ostensibly to get their input.  In reality, after some members of the Park Board expressed concerns about Fullerton’s plan, he refused to allow them to discus the matter at their next meeting to make a recommendation to the Selectboard.  He also then refused to allow  the Park Board to vote and make a recommendation right then.  After coming back into public session Fullerton immediately held a vote and the deed was done.

So, one would ask: Why have a Park Board if it’s not going to be allowed to express it’s opinion?  Perhaps Chair Fullerton was just saving time and intended to ignore any opinion that didn’t match his own anyway.

This action follows the Boards debacle with the Historical Society and never achieved Historical Board earlier in the year.  At that time the Board announced it’s intention to create a Historical Board to deal with some controversial issues.  Then after soliciting and interviewing potential members the Selectboard just abandoned the idea with no concern to those who had volunteered to serve and taken the time to apply.

This pattern of snubbing volunteers unless they agree with the powers that be appears to have become a pattern for this town government.  It has infiltrated the Planning Board (which Mr. Fullerton serves on).  That Board which has a continual need for alternate and new members refused to appoint a volunteer as an alternate when it had none.  That volunteer’s crime – being outspoken and criticizing that Boards actions.

It is clear that under this administration, the town’s mantra has become:  If you don’t agree with Dave, then don’t bother to apply!

MS teachers, Goals, No Bus Schedules

At their regular meeting on August 25th (moved from the 18th), the H-D School Board heard an explanation of the hiring of two new MS E/LA teachers.  It was explained that there was not an increase in overall teacher positions as the hires are replacing a Social Studies teacher and a Math teacher who had resigned.  The new teachers will be teaching 6th and 8th grade reading which is being added to the schedule (doubling the E/LA time for the students).  Apparently there are enough SS and Math teachers to cover all classes.  Not clear what those teachers were teaching last year.

The Board also spent time discussing “Goals”.  This is an exercised Boards and administrators do from time to time to appear to be doing something.  With all due respect, it is pretty simple and shouldn’t need to be redone every few years.   The school’s job and therefore it’s goal is to teach the kids and they should do so in a fiscally responsible manner.

The Board also neglected to bring up the approval of bus routes.  Usually done at a meeting in August, it appears that those on the Board who would prefer that this be left to the administration have gotten there way.  School started with routes put out by the administration and the Board had no input.

Adopt SB2

Article 3 – SB2

 Why We Should Adopt SB2:

Because everyone should have a voice in the town’s affairs.  Unfortunately too many of our citizens are unable to attend Town Meeting.  Some work second shift; some have family at home to care for; some are out of town on business, wintering elsewhere or attending school; and some don’t drive at night or at all.  For whatever reason, attendance at Town Meeting rarely exceeds a couple of hundred voters out of our population in the area of six thousand.  I dare say that even those of us who do attend meetings know friends or family who don’t.  It is not our place to judge their reasons.  The rest of our citizens deserve to be heard.

For those who like the tradition of Town Meeting or feel that being able to discuss the issues with each other helps them make a good decision, that opportunity still exists at the first or as it is commonly known – the deliberative session. Under ‘SB2’ we get the best of both worlds – a meeting to discuss and then everyone having a vote!

For those that may want to research and find out more about an issue after hearing a point made by a fellow citizen at the meeting, this also allows the time to do so.  Under the current system, if someone brings up a point during discussion, one has to make a snap decision about it.  As someone who does speak at meetings, I would be presumptuous to expect my neighbors to accept what I have to say as gospel.  None of us are perfect, so having a break before the final vote allows research to confirm something said.  It also allows time to discuss the issues in other settings with people that couldn’t make the meeting or who perhaps just aren’t comfortable speaking in a large venue.

The bottom line is that SB2 will increase the number of us participating in our affairs.  This is a win for democracy and a win for our town.

Say No to Zoning Change

Our Town Boards need to work to make things easier for businesses to come to town.  The proposal to revamp the Zoning Ordinance is exactly what we don’t need as it will chase businesses away from Hillsborough. The proposal replaces a simple, straight forward ordinance which allows “In the commercial district …are permitted … all commercial uses”,  with a multi page chart, pages and pages of definitions and most importantly the statement: “Any use that is not listed in Table 4 …..may not be permitted to locate anywhere in Hillsborough …”  In spite of the Planning Board’s claims, it defies common sense to think that increasing regulation will attract business to our town.

Town Budget Needs Cutting

The Police Department Budget continues to grow.  The Police Department Budget is by far the largest of all the Town Departments. At $1.7 million it is about the size of the second and third largest Departments combined (Highway $1.1 million and Fire/Rescue – $750k). It is also important to note that the $1.7 million doesn’t include the dispatch budget which is another $400k+. The largest cost item in these budgets is for payroll.  The PD payroll is almost $1 million ($942k) of which $85k is planned for overtime (with additional $260k including $15k- OT for dispatch). Although concerns were raised about this amount last year, nothing appears to have been done to address these costs as both departments overspent their OT budget.  

The Selectboard, through the Business Administrator needs to do their jobs and manage in a responsible manner to bring these costs down.

Lowering the Budget

When deliberating the budget tonight I would urge that voters consider the following items in the budget for cutting:

1. – $40,000. – Approximate – Cost of ES Para that Budget proposal explained would result from combining an Office Para with an SSC para. The amount was not taken from budget however.

2. – $29,000. – Amount of increase for new computor equipment. Note this is just the amount of the increase. Still left is about $95,000 – the amount in the current budget. In addition remember that last June a portion of the ‘surplus’ was spent on new computors.

3. – $25,000. – Amount of increase of “Maintenance and Repairs’ line. Again this leaves the amount at $180,000.

4. – $4,000. – $12,000. – MS Field trips. Increasing this line $4,000 when it’s current amount of $20,000 for 3 grades of kids is about double that for the ES ($12,000. for 6 grades) or HS ($10,000 for 4 grades). Some might think this should be cut back to $12,000. – similar to the amounts for the other schools.

5. – $60,000. – Approximate cost of one ES teacher. One grade currently has 58 students spread among 4 teachers while 3 teachers would be appropriate per current policy (Try to keep under 20 per class).

6. – $13,000. – ? Professional Development. While 13k proposed increase this year might not seem like much, that is on top of last years increase nearly doubling from $88,000. to $165,000. (And how did they manage to do that with a flat budget?)

7. – ? Raises for non Union staff such as administers. Most of us still arent getting raises as the economy spuitters to a hopeful recovery, yet the district continues to give yearly raises. Can’t they get by on the same generous salary as last year just once?

It seems to me that with this quick list as a start, and with a few more items not increased we are getting close to the amount of the proposed increase. Let’s keep it level (the same as last year).

Hijacking the Trust Fund

We can expect to see some fancy wordplay at tommorrow’s Public Hearing as the Board trys to justify their warrant article changing the Maintenance Trust Fund from one only to be used for unanticipated (emergency) items to one that can be used on any project the Board wants.  No longer will they have to ask the taxpayers each year if they want to spend money on a particular project.  New Building?  Football Stadium?  Who knows?  The sky ‘s the limit.  Luckily this will require a two thirds vote to change, so tell them no tommorrow and more importantly tell them no at the polls!