I am writing in response to Mr. Troyer’s recent ramblings, which were filled with half-truths and innuendo. While I do not respond to every letter that may be critical of me and my administration, in this case I feel a reply is necessary in order to set the record straight and correct many of Mr. Troyer’s misleading and distorted assertions.
When reading Mr. Troyer’s musings, one may come away with the mistaken impression that the Mayor and Town Council were meddling in the Board of Education’s business by reviewing the budget. This is simply not the case. We were charged with the duty to review and reduce the budget in a responsible manner by the Taxpayers when they disapproved of the proposed budget Mr. Troyer voted for by a margin of 1,200 “no” to 750 “yes” on Election Day.
Left with this tremendous responsibility, we attempted to garner as much information about the defeated budget as possible. This turned into a herculean task as the chief architects of the budget were not available – the business administrator was out on extended leave and the chief accountant was on an extended vacation. Additionally, when we repeatedly asked for insurance renewal information and professional consulting contracts, we were met with responses that were consistently incomplete.
Mr. Troyer would also have you believe that somehow we came up with an “eleventh hour” plan to reinstate more than $303,000 back into the budget. I can assure you that this was presented as an option to Mr. Troyer from the outset of our meeting as we felt it important to keep line items such as extra-curricular programs, a guidance counselor and the like that we felt were beneficial to students.
Our cuts, after a very extensive review by finance and administrative professionals, included reductions in non-educational components which were based upon previous years actual usage such as: electric bills, diesel fuel, legal bills and similar non-educational components.
Our recommendations also asked for shared sacrifices by employees as well. It included a net salary increase for teachers as well as the administration of 0 percent this year. This was arrived at by giving a 1 ½ percent salary increase in exchange for the teachers and administrators paying an additional 1 ½ percent of their health insurance premiums. Other concessions on Health Benefits were also made to better match benefits offered in the private sector.
Then, on June 8, 2011, at a poorly noticed special school board meeting, rather than recommending implementing our non-educational cuts, the board was presented with a proposed budget that would have reduced preschool, elementary, middle school and high school teachers by more than $500,000. After beseeching the Board not to vote for these reductions and instead urging them to utilize the non-educational recommendations we made, the Board did vote for the Mayor and Council’s recommendations.
In closing, I’d like to borrow a page from Mr. Troyer’s often quoted book of fairy tales and fantasies. It seems to me Mr. Troyer wants to be a reverse Robin Hood – the budget he recommended appeared to take from the poor and give to the rich. We recommended budget amendments that added educational components while reducing items that do not impact our children’s education. With respect to the school budget for 2011-2012, the Mayor and Council and all involved parties did the job we were charged to do by the voters.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Troyer tries to politicize the process by writing letters to the newspaper. We went through this process with only one goal, which was to develop a budget that provided for the best possible education for our children at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayers.
Michael J. Gonnelli