Two wolves and a sheep voting on lunch

Government_vs_Mafia

The bullies over at the Keene School District along with their supporters in the community showed their true colors once again at this year’s town hall style deliberative session.

“We don’t need a very small minority of people in this community — that do not in any way represent the will of the people — telling us how to do our job.” That was School board member, Susan Hay.

It seems in her world, it’s perfectly acceptable to steal money from her neighbor to pay for her sacred cow as long as it’s the majority making the decision and as long as she’s on the winning team.  I can only imagine the ruckus she would have made if we had had another 60 or so supporters in the room–one day we will.

There were 13 ballot initiatives up for discussion.  Nine were created by the Board itself;  aimed at raising the already bloated and unsustainable budget. That’s how they “do their job,” which Ms. Hay takes extreme pride in.  Four submitted by petition were focused on reducing the budget.

The purpose of the deliberative session is to discuss, debate and clarify the articles before being placed on the upcoming ballot in March.  Instead of leaving my four warrants in their original wording for the voters to decide on, former school board member and local busybody, Ted Parent, made it his goal to neutralize all four and extensively added an additional 2 hours to the already-lengthy proceedings.

After the meeting, I was approached by a good dozen participants who were all sympathetic and urged me to continue the fight, knowing that the entire proceedings had been unfairly stacked against us. I wish they had all stepped up and told the entire room instead of just me in private.  This at least is encouraging.  The seeds have been planted.

The most ironic part of this entire process is the anti-bullying stance these school authorities spout off on a regular basis.  Don’t they realize their entire system is fundamentally built and supported by the practice of bullying others?  You give us your lunch money or we’ll take your house.  If you don’t like it run for office yourself ( join the ranks of bullies).  Or Move to another playground (and take your chances with another gang).

Stay tuned for video of the proceedings.

Here is the Keene Sentinels take:

The majority of people who attended Keene School District’s deliberative session Saturday morning overwhelmingly rejected a small minority’s attempt to slash education funding via the group’s petition articles.

The other articles about the operating budget, employee contracts, the appropriation of surplus money into the school buildings maintenance fund, the creation of a fund for special education and an article that would permit the school board to lease or purchase land adjacent to district property all remained intact with no amendments.

About 100 people out of the 16,276 registered voters in Keene attended the four-hour meeting in the high school auditorium.

The proposed 2015-16 budget is $64,529,015, a $652,964 increase from the current year. The default budget is $63,618,688 and will kick in if voters shoot down the board’s proposal.

The budget, along with employee contracts would add more than $152 to the taxes for a home valued at $200,000.

In addition to the operating budget, the district negotiated three-year contracts with the Keene Paraprofessional Group and Keene Administrators, Principals and Supervisors, plus a four-year contract with the Keene Association of Tutors.

The cost of the contracts is an additional $184,444 for 2015-16; they are presented as separate warrant articles.

The proposed budget would also implement the first step of a two-year process to restructure the elementary schools, ultimately leading to the closure of Jonathan Daniels School.

Contentious discussion centered on the four petition articles, but, ultimately, each was amended and effectively nullified.

The first petition article proposes the district implement a tax cap that would not allow the board to propose a budget that increases the amount to be raised by local taxes by more than 0.5 percent of the previous budget.

The article drew negative criticism from school board members and the public.

George Downing referred to the article as “irresponsible” because it gives no guidance about where the money reductions would come from in the budget and he doesn’t think it’s a good idea to limit the budget in this manner.

School board member Carl A. Panza said it would be very difficult to adhere to the 0.5 percent increase.

Adding the costs of the contractual agreements would already account for more than a 0.5 percent increase from the previous budget, according to Panza.

“I think that 0.5 percent (tax cap) is outrageous and ridiculous,” he said.

Theodore H. Parent, a former school board member, proposed amending the article from 0.5 percent to 10 percent.

Ian Freeman, one of the sponsors of the article, said he wished that the public would get the chance to vote on the article as originally worded.

Thomas Driscoll agreed saying it is “selfish” and “pushy” to amend the article to neutralize it.

“I’d like to see all of these articles appear as they are,” he said.

Joseph Mirzoeff thought that the idea was at least worth exploring with the resolution being somewhere between a 0.5 percent and 10 percent cap.

He said despite decreasing enrollment, costs for education still increase.

“The system that you’re using is not sustainable,” Mirzoeff said.

Implementing a tax cap is unnecessary, vice chairwoman Susan D. Hay said.

She said the school board doesn’t approach the budget looking to raise it and if the public doesn’t like the job the board does, they should express themselves at the polls during elections.

“Putting a cap on it (the budget) says you don’t want us to do our job anymore,” Hay said.

Parent’s amendment passed with 80 people in favor of raising the proposed tax cap to 10 percent and 19 against the alteration.

After the vote, James Cleaveland said a tax cap should be reconsidered because people plan their lives around taxes and the cost of living. In response, he proposed amending the article again from 10 percent to 5 percent.

Hay reiterated that a tax cap is not needed.

“We don’t need a very small minority of people in this community — that do not in any way represent the will of the people — telling us how to do our job,” she said.

Cleaveland’s motion failed 80-14.

In response, Freeman tried to make another amendment to change the tax cap to negative 0.5 percent. The moderator, Joe Hoppock, ruled his motion out of order citing the previous two votes taken showing overwhelming support for the amendment to 10 percent.

Freeman then challenged Hoppock’s ruling to not allow his amendment. Ultimately, Hoppock was not overruled and Freeman’s challenge failed 84-8.

The second petition article proposes cutting the average cost per pupil by $500 for the next five years or until the cost per pupil reaches the state average. If passed, this article would take effect for the 2015-16 budget; also, it proposes the surplus be returned to the district.

Parent moved to amend this article, too. His amendment would have the school board form a three-person committee to investigate the consequences of taking actions to reduce the cost per pupil by $500 for the next five years to see if this is something that should be done.

“This would assure no matter what the voters do at the polls, it would have no effect this year,” he said.

Parent added that the original article is a bad concept, but if it is entertained at all then a committee should be formed first.

Downing then asked what would happen if the proposed operating budget was passed by the voters and then this article was passed as well.

Keene School District’s legal counsel John D. Wrigley said the budget would not be affected if both articles passed.

“I am certain the Department of Revenue Administration would say article one (the operating budget) would take precedent,” he said.

Resident Gerald Kuhn said he works in a school district with an article like this in place and urged caution.

“It’s amazing what kind of damage this kind of article can do in a school building,” he said.

Kuhn later said, “It’s like trying to weed your garden with a hand grenade.”

Ultimately, Parent’s motion passed 75-16.

The third petition article proposes making a 5-percent cut to the executive administration portion of the operating budget that would take effect for 2015-16 and also return the surplus to the district.

Parent made a similar motion for this article. He proposed changing the wording so that a school board committee would be made to explore the consequences of such a cut.

Again, his amendment passed with a super majority, with 72 in favor of the change and 19 opposed.

The last petition article proposes the district should “be prohibited from electioneering, which includes, but is not limited to: spending budget money to (directly or indirectly) educate, advertise and/or influence the voting results on questions, warrant articles, ballot initiatives and/or candidates.”

Parent again led the amendment of the article to instead say the district should align with state statute regarding electioneering as opposed to being prohibited from electioneering.

“This is the most absurd petition article I’ve seen in a long time,” he said.

Conan Saladay, a supporter of the amendment, said he thinks it’s against the law for the school board to do what it does when it advertises elections and said it’s unfair that the board gets to use money out of its budget to do so when he would have to spend his own money to advertise.

“It’s one thing to say please come out and vote on article one. It’s another thing to say vote yes on article one.”

Hay said the school board has a legal obligation to say and promote what the board does and does not support.

Parent’s motion to amend later passed 72-11.

The other articles about the operating budget, employee contracts, the appropriation of surplus money into the school buildings maintenance fund, the creation of a fund for special education and an article that would permit the school board to lease or purchase land adjacent to district property all remained intact with no amendments.

About 100 people out of the 16,276 registered voters in Keene attended the four-hour meeting in the high school auditorium.

The proposed 2015-16 budget is $64,529,015, a $652,964 increase from the current year. The default budget is $63,618,688 and will kick in if voters shoot down the board’s proposal.

The budget, along with employee contracts would add more than $152 to the taxes for a home valued at $200,000.

In addition to the operating budget, the district negotiated three-year contracts with the Keene Paraprofessional Group and Keene Administrators, Principals and Supervisors, plus a four-year contract with the Keene Association of Tutors.

The cost of the contracts is an additional $184,444 for 2015-16; they are presented as separate warrant articles.

The proposed budget would also implement the first step of a two-year process to restructure the elementary schools, ultimately leading to the closure of Jonathan Daniels School.

Residents will vote on the budget and the other warrant articles March 10 at the polls.

by Matt Nanci, Sentinel Staff

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