All Boards Chairman Region One Subcommittee November 19 Reply

All Boards Chairman Region One Subcommittee November 19, 2014

A report on the ABC meeting from The Republicn-American
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Five of the six towns that form the Region 1 School District appear to support, or are at least neutral to, changing the way the superintendent of schools is compensated. One town, Falls Village, is adamantly opposed.

The towns currently each pay a portion of the superintendent’s salary based proportionally on student populations. That’s the same method district towns use to handle costs for the operation of Housatonic Valley Regional High School, special education and the central office.

Region 1 Superintendent Patricia Chamberlain has a base annual salary of $151,327, plus an annuity of $9,080 for a total of $160,407.

Under a new joint agreement, the towns would each pay one-seventh of the Chamberlain’s compensation, with the seventh piece of the pie coming from the regional high school’s budget. This benefits towns with larger populations. Falls Village, the smallest town, would see an increase of $15,485; Cornwall, $12,364 and Sharon, $2,574, while Canaan would have a reduction of $13,902, Salisbury, $9,290 and Kent, $7,230.

FALLS VILLAGE RESIDENT LOUIS G. TIMOLAT told the committee it can expect legal action if changes are made that ignore the founding principles of the school district.

Following the meeting, Timolat cited the inequity of changing the formula for the superintendent’s compensation. He noted that Canaan, which has 280 elementary school students, gets 6 percent of educational cost-sharing grants; Falls Village, which has 78 elementary students, gets 1.7 percent.

“We don’t split $700,000 in educational cost-sharing equally across the district,” he said. “Is that because the original legislators were asleep at the switch? No, there was logic to it. But because the distribution is weighted, North Canaan gets several times the amount we do. They have already been compensated for the additional cost (of tuition).”

It has been argued that towns paying a flat payment of one-seventh of the superintendent’s salary is fair because she performs the same work for big schools and small. Timolat disagreed.

“Her assertion that ‘I do the same thing for everyone,’ that the size and scale and complexity of the site has no effect on amount of work she does, cannot be true,” he said. “If it is, then the larger entities are being shortchanged. To double the share Falls Village pays of the superintendent’s salary is an outrage and a fraud.”

He further objected to the change in structure for the district.

“We would be creating a separate bureaucracy to do what we have done for more than 70 years,” he said. “The foolishness of such a thing. In structure, it kind of usurps some of the authority of the regional board.”

He said he believes the district’s attorney, Gary Brochu, misled residents when he said the region is not in compliance with educational law. “That statute says we ‘may’ do this, not that we ‘shall’ do this,” he said. “Even the village idiot would know the difference between ‘may’ and ‘shall.’ It would change the founding governing structure of the district. This is a subject to be addressed by the towns and not be imposed upon the towns.”

Andrea L. Downs of Falls Village, chairman of the Region 1 School Board, had reservations, too.

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