New budget proposal includes administrators’ raises, benefits
Voters will go to the polls again on May 31 for a second vote on Region 1’s proposed budget for 2012-2013, having soundly rejected the first one by 570-472 in early May. At that same referendum voters overwhelmingly approved two high school building projects totaling $3.6 million by votes of 789-254 and 793-251, indicating that the reason for the rejected budget had nothing to do with money. On the contrary, the main objections the board heard about the proposed budget concerned “central office” administrators’ raises, contract extensions, extra days off, an annuity and other benefits.
Board Chairman Phil Hart and Superintendent Patricia Chamberlain claim that since the majority of the board voted to approve the contract changes prior to the first referendum that they are “legal contracts” that must be “honored.” The attorney for three of the Region 1 towns – Falls Village, Sharon and North Canaan, says the contract changes are not legal until taxpayers pass a budget. Commonsense asks: How could raises and other financial benefits included in a proposed budget be legal when taxpayers haven’t voted to approve the budget and appropriate the funds to pay for the raises and other benefits?
In addition to insisting that a board majority approval – not voter approval — is all that’s needed to make the contracts legal, Mr. Hart, apparently speaking on behalf of the administrators, suggested in an open meeting of the board on May 17 that the administrators might sue the Region 1 board – meaning, the taxpayers of the region — if they don’t get their raises and other benefits. He encouraged the board to ask the administrators for an alleged “concession” — to give up the one-year contract extension that the board majority had approved. The administrators agreed to give up the extension, but in the new proposed budget they still get to keep their raises, extra vacation days, an annuity and other expensive benefits that do nothing whatsoever to improve student learning or ease the financial burden on Region 1 taxpayers. Furthermore, if the new proposed budget is approved, those raises and extra benefits will be the starting point for the administrators’ contract negotiations next year.
To sweeten the deal or perhaps distract attention from the fact that the board majority is again fattening the administrators’ contracts with pay packets that range from over $100,000 to around $180,000, taxpayers are being offered around $278,000 in high school budget cuts that no one asked for and which could adversely affect student programs and building improvements. Common sense asks: How are these cuts possible now when we were told they were so necessary just a little while ago when the budget proposal was presented?
Our democracy provides the right for voters to make choices. This is an appeal to all Region 1 voters to vote in the proposed budget referendum on May 31 and let your choices be heard.
Gale Courey Toensing