Monday, April 14, 2014

Southbridge School Budget Meeting Should Be Broadcast

Southbridge's Town Councilors are constantly telling us that the real work on the budget is done in subcommittee. After The O'Zone's review of how the General Government subcommittee zipped through its budget responsibility that appears a disingenuous claim at best. 

Only in my wildest dreams would anyone who watched that subcommittee report and felt that “real work was done” offer me or anyone else a job. That would be the ultimate definition of a sinecure.

There can be little doubt that the school budget proposed by the Superintendent is controversial. It is substantially more than the acting Town Manager has proposed. In addition, Mr. Reed has expressed something verging on outrage regarding expected unemployment insurance costs.

With the pending proposal to return Southbridge to a town meeting form of government, citizens should have the opportunity to observe the extent to which their elected representatives are actually serving their interests.

It is not sufficient to tell us that, if we care, we should attend subcommittee meetings. If that's the case, then we should return to a town meeting where we can deal with all of these issues at one time rather than having to attend multiple meetings on a variety of nights. After all, if we have to be there, why do we need nine councilors? This is especially validated when we see that over 20% of the town's budget is dispensed with in 50 minutes in subcommittee with virtually no challenge to any line item.

I have been outspoken in my opposition to the proposed return to a selectmen/town meeting government. But, if our elected representatives under the current system are going to shirk the responsibilities imposed upon them by this system, then I may well have to admit I was wrong.

The budget of the school department is essentially 50% of the town's overall budget. Let us see how it is handled and how knowledgeable those who claim to represent us really are. This goes beyond simply supporting the Town Manager's proposal over that of the Superintendent. It also involves the extent to which reductions can be sought in the Manager's proposals. And that same practice should be expected as regards other departments when the complete budget comes before the full council.

Such information is, and should be, critical to making a decision on the "We The People" petition when it appears on the ballot. It may not be "Game Of Thrones" or "Mad Men", but it certainly should be "must see TV". If we need to be present to get things done properly, then we don't need a bunch of clowns who throw their weight around while having no justification for that influential heft.

Broadcast this meeting and let the people see how carefully you exercise your oversight over their money.

Call your councilors and Southbridge Cable TV (508-765-1525), and demand that this meeting be broadcast. The public has not merely a right, but a need, to know.

(P.S. There's no Open Meeting Law issue. There are more than two business days to announce a change of venue if needed, in addition to which this can be done at the opening of the meeting by vote of the subcommittee without a violation.)


  1. Why was the chairperson of the school committee not present at this meeting to defend the outrageous unemployment costs the district has amassed since she overthrew the previous chairperson? Why was she not there to defend the even more outrageous 2014-2015 school budget? Why was Nikola so willing to just recommend these outrageous figures?

    Is Nikola looking for the chairperson's support at a bid for school committee?

    These two spendaholics are guilty of "taxpayer abuse." It's time for both these arrogant, incompetents to take a hike, not give us another massive tax hike.

  2. Tired of the WasteApril 20, 2014 at 9:54 AM

    Item 3 on the agenda indicates an unknown amount of money to pay for unemployment costs for the school department for March. Do they really not have a dollar amount? Or is Nikola hiding the real figure? After all, she is pals with the school committee majority.

    How about giving the people the dollar amounts for school department unemployment since McLoughlin and Donovan pulled their coup!

    Because layoffs in municipalities are VERY rare, towns do not pay into the unemployment program. Only upon a layoff is a town required to fund this expense. Towns do not traditionally budget this money, again because of the rarity of layoffs.

    Southbridge has paid out how much in the last 20 months? I suggest it is well in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. I also suggest that the district has paid out more that figure for "go away" salaries to people who leave and receive salary well after their separation from the district.

    It's time for the Auditor General of the Commonwealth to do a fiscal audit of our school department. And, hold those who spent these funds to be held LEGALLY accountable.


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