Other Officials Speak Out in Telegram Article
Town Council Chairman Shaun Moriarty has commented on the proposed School budget on his
"Not only do I question whether it would be appropriate to provide such an increase to a school district that has been mired in perpetual transitions, practically in every key leadership position, for a number of years now.
"The assertion that we should be adding money to exceed what was there for a recent high-water mark in 2012 is interesting, but flawed. What was student performance in 2012? Were on the right path three years ago? This current School Committee, I imagine, would say we were not in a good place in 2012 ... just as we are not in a good place right now. According to the DESE profile of our school district, the percentage of the per pupil expenditure being used for "administration" has climbed each of the last three years recorded (though, admittedly, data from 2014 is not made available there as yet).
"The seemingly continual turnover of superintendents, finance team members, principals, and assistant principals has not been an issue of paychecks and resources. Not one of those who have left has publicly stated, or privately, to my knowledge, has cited money, funding or resources as a reason for departure. It has been politics, gamesmanship, politics, mismanagement, politics, retribution and retaliation, and, of course, politics.
"Some bemoan that we have tough demographics, specifically citing ELL students. Across the district, however, there is no group in the demographic breakdown that is coming anywhere close to where they need to be in order to be considered "on target".
"Until Central Office and administration can establish at least a positive track record, blank checks cannot be written out. Good money after bad is not the way to salvation. The problem with our school district is not funding. The problem with our school district is inconsistency, a lack of accountability, and a constant changing of direction due to politics and the never-ending game of musical chairs."
In an article in the Worcester Telegram titled, “Southbridge council chair on school budget proposal: 'No way'” other town officials echoed the sentiment.
Councilor Albert D. Vecchia, Jr. called the proposed budget, “ridiculously unreasonable."
Town Manager Kevin Paicos said it was "obviously unfundable," and expressed disappointment with what he said was the schools' lack of communication.
“I've never, once, in 40 years, had a School Department provide such an astronomical budget like this, with no dialogue, no discussion whatsoever," Mr. Paicos asserted.
The only other way to fund the request would be with a permanent override, "which is obviously not going to happen," he said.
In fiscal 2012-14, the schools spent $680,000 in unemployment compensation, while legal costs were $116,000 in 2011, $123,000 in 2012, $199,000 in 2013, and $125,000 last year.
In addition, the manager said, the department's administrative offices are in "that enormous building," the former high school on Cole Avenue.
"My goodness, what are they occupying: 10, 15 percent of the building?" he said, adding the small rents it receives from tenants were "nowhere near" offsetting operating costs.
He added that the schools' maintenance department, which is in a separate town-owned building, could easily move into the public works facility. But he said the School Department hasn't responded to his offer to move them into the DPW building.
On top of all that, Mr. Paicos said he signs weekly purchase orders for the schools, which is "in sharp variance" with the town charter.
"When I asked, 'Why am I doing this?' I was told that the School Department's mismanagement of its budget has been so bad that it put this procedure in place so that the manager can supervise their expenditures and mismanagement, and thus exhibit some control over how they spend their money."
He said he believed the practice had been in place three to four years.