From the Budget Committee
I served on the Hooksett Budget Committee from 2018 to 2020. With professional experience developing computer software for the finance and accounting industries, I utilized tools and techniques to analyze budget accounting details line by line, and carefully considered backup materials justifying these proposed allocations. A common method of analysis is to look at historical spending in comparison to requests for future spending, and ask questions about discrepancies. Serving on the Committee was a great way to learn about the operations of the town and school departments.
As a member of Budget Committee, your mission per New Hampshire State Law (RSA 32) is to ensure the prudent appropriation of public funds – ensuring taxpayer dollars for municipal purposes are well spent. In addition to the challenges of fiscal review of thousand line budgets, there is the challenge that “prudent” can be defined differently based on your personal circumstances. An increase in school spending may seem prudent if you have children in the school district and the increases are for purposes you support, but may seem less prudent if you don’t have children in school or you have to make tradeoffs for increased taxes because your income is fixed or not growing as much. For every town or school allocation, residents felt the money was well spent or not well spent, or was necessary or not. Determining “prudence” required a great deal of empathy and developing broad, well-informed perspectives.
During my time serving Hooksett on the Budget Committee, I was frustrated by inconsistencies with which people viewed the school district budget. Many people felt fiscal responsibility was incongruous with school budgeting, in away they did not consider for police, fire, public works, or other town operations. With detailed data analysis on past spending, I helped identify areas to tighten the school and town budgets. However, I did not support some large adjustments to the school budgets proposed by other Budget Committee Members, such as large special education reduction in 2019 that drew well-deserved ire from some community members.
Unfortunately, some of the responses were not made with the best of integrity or factual accuracy. I captured the experiences as a reminder of how far we’ve come with budget transparency.
From the School Board
With new administrators, new perspectives, and greater attention to the budget process, drivers, and details by School Board Members, I’m proud of how much better the school budgeting process has become. All School Board budget meetings are posted public meetings, and live-streamed – something that wasn’t the case just a few years ago. The School Board has had outstanding representation at Budget Committee meetings, via an ex-officio seat on the Budget Committee well-attended by Board Member Ms. Godbout, and detailed presentations and QnA sessions by several of the district’s school administrators. This year, the School Board went through the entire budget, line-by-line, at a public meeting.