GILFORD — The Budget Committee refused to listen to the School District's 2017-2018 budget proposal Thursday night, continuing the battle between the two agencies that began last year and has extended into this year.
Thursday night's disagreement was about the so-called default budget, specifically about the difference between what the actual budget for 2016 was and what was spent in each line item. This year, the School District is operating under a default budget because voters rejected the budget proposed for 2016-2017.
The administration build its proposed default budget for 2017-2018 not on what was approved by voter's for the current year, but what is actually being spent.
For example, if a text book line had $1,000 in it in the default budget, but the district has spent $2,000 in that line over the course of this school year, the Budget Committee wants to see the actual budgeted allocation in the default budget with an additional column that shows the excess actually spent.
Chair Norm Silber explained that the Budget Committee doesn't necessarily disagree with the need to spend $2,000 but doesn't want the amount spent to be reflected in the default budget. It wants the amount initially budgeted.
Personal animosity between Silber and Assistant Superintendent Scott Isabelle also flared up when Isabelle went to answer a question and Silber made a motion that Isabelle swear under oath that what he is saying is true before being allowed to speak.
The motion was seconded but failed by a five-to-five vote and Isabelle was allowed to speak without swearing under oath.
Silber and some members of the Budget Committee were disappointed with the preparation of the 2016-2017 year's default budget and felt it included things it shouldn't have. At the 2016 deliberative session, voters made motions to restore all the cuts made by the committee, including a cut from a 3 percent raise for non union workers to 1.5 and longevity bonuses for top tier administrators, and added $80,000 for a language arts teacher. But on Town Meeting day voters rejected the amended budget proposal in favor of the lower default budget.
Once the budget went into effect, the School Board found the money to pay the 3 percent raises and the longevity bonuses within other line items.
The Budget Committee doesn't want those bonuses compounding as many of its members believe that a default budget shouldn't include any raises, except those that are contractual like those included in collective bargaining agreements.
In addition, because of the problems many members of the Budget Committee feel occurred in preparing last year's default budget, they feel that this year's represents an inadequate place to start.
On Thursday, the board voted 9 to 2 to not allow school administrators continue on with their budget presentation and the meeting ended.
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