Sunday, July 3, 2011

Here we go again!

From the Longmeadow School Department website…

On Monday, June 14, 2010, the School Committee approved the revised FY11 School Department budget.  The approved budget reflects the budget voted during the annual Town Meeting.”

Last year, the new School Superintendent’s salary was finalized on March 30, 2010 (see contract details) yet the FY11 school department budget provided to town voters for the May Annual Town Meeting showed a line item of $135,000 even though the actual contract salary at the time was $155,000. This was a 25% increase over the $123,600 paid to the retiring school superintendent and 55% higher than the Town Manager.

Since by Massachusetts General Law the ATM approves only the TOTAL School Dept budget, changing this salary line was perfectly legal.  However, in a Buzz post last year on this subject I asked the following question:

Why were town voters mislead by the School Committee as to the new superintendent’s salary particularly given a budget that was achieved in part with a new teachers contract having a 0.0% COLA?

There was no answer from the School Committee.

The current salary situation for our town employees has not changed very much since last year…

For the past two years (FY10 AND FY11), Longmeadow School Dept employees received a 0% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA).  Just recently, the vast majority of school department employees accepted a one year contract (FY12) with a 1% increase in total salaries.  The details are a bit more complicated for Unit A (teachers) given that this was not a COLA nor an across-the-board salary increase but rather an additional salary step was added which benefited only those teachers who had already reached step 15.  The majority of teachers in Unit A (steps 15 and below) did receive salary step increases for both FY10 and FY11 (+ FY12) of ~ 2.8% each year (see previous Buzz post for further explanation).

Unofficial word is that Longmeadow Firefighters have agreed to a 0% COLA for FY10, FY11 and FY12.

Other town employees (DPW, police, et al) have been working without a contract for the past two years but appear to be headed toward a 1% COLA increase for FY12 (with 0% for FY10 and FY11) based upon public comments made at the special town meeting and recent Select Board meetings.  No official contract settlements have been announced.

On June 27, the Longmeadow School Committee met to finalize the FY12 budget.  Gwen Bruns, chair of the SC Financial Sub Committee explained a number of FY12 budget line item changes/ transfers prior to the required School Committee approval.  Below is a video clip of the explanation…

A lack of clarity of the explanation presented by Ms Bruns suggests that there was some intent to disguise some of the line item particulars that were involved…. 

For those not able to decipher them from Ms. Bruns explanation, here are some additional details.

-       The salary of the newly appointed Asst. Superintendent will be $99.5K- an increase of $14.6K (+17.2%) vs. the FY11 salary of previous Asst. Superintendent ($84.9K) who recently resigned.  The Asst. Superintendent’s salary is now equivalent to the salary of our Town Manager.
-       The salary for our IT Director was increased to $90K- an increase of $10K (+12.5%) from FY11.
-       The salaries of two elementary school principals (Wolf Swamp + Center School) were each increased by $6.5K ( + 8%).

It’s important to note that the Town Manager's Budget Report had targeted each of the above salary increases as being outside the budget instructions. The Town Manager rescinded the amounts from the total School Department budget that was presented and approved at the Annual Town Meeting.

At the June 27 meeting the SC voted to utilize additional revenues to fund targeted administrative salary increases that effectively superseded the Town Manager's budget instructions and the Annual Town Meeting vote.   

Nothing illegal about what took place… 

It's just not what we expect from our elected officials from the point of transparency and responsible actions during difficult financial times.

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