School budget lobbying publications by the Hooksett school administration and NH teachers union have excluded key information: what was actually budgeted and spent in past years. You should be interested that in 2016-17, the Hooksett school budget was nearly $1.4 million more than what was actually spent, and last year, 2017-18, the budget was over $1.7 million larger than what was actually spent.
It’s like shopping for a new car. Although you see an inflated “Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price” (MSRP) on the window, you want to know the “invoice price” the dealer paid to help arrive at a fair price between those two values. Money actually spent by schools in past years is that “invoice price”.
Here’s an example of the budget “analysis” published by the school administration. Notice there are only 3 monetary columns, with no historic actual spending provided.
When the Budget Committee received financial information from the schools, it included previous budgeted amounts and monies actually spent going back to 2016-17. Isn’t it strange those were deleted from the school’s publication above? Here are the highlighted lines with the missing columns.
Look specifically at the 17-18 Actuals column in dark blue for what was actually spent last year (“invoice price”), the 19-20 School Board request in tan (“MSRP”), and the Budget Committee’s recommendation in green (“fair price”). There are additional columns comparing the Budget Committee’s recommendation to the last year, in terms of dollar increase and percent increase. For example, Cawley Supplies:
- $11,533 actually spent in 16-17
- $11,416 actually spent in 17-18; schools had budgeted $14,750
- For 2019-20, schools again budgeted $14,750
- Budget Committee reduced $2,500 to $12,250, still $834 more than was actually spent in 17-18 or 107% of that amount
- School administration claimed this would be “insufficient funds to purchase supplies”
The pattern of the school administration’s “analysis” document is to note the reduction from their request (“MSRP”) and then state there will be “insufficient funds” if the Budget Committee’s recommendation is adopted. However, every line amended by the Budget Committee is still at least 4% more than what was actually spent last year. There were many lines left unadjusted, resulting in a total budget 5.8% larger, or by $1.8 million, than what was spent last year. The “Bottom Line Budget” means school administration can reallocate monies from some lines to others, much like how many Hooksett residents had to offset a property tax increase this year by spending less money on something else.
Considering the rationale for some changes, the “analysis” comments are even more misleading. For instance, the Cawley Math Supplies line is for scientific calculators. In less than one minute we found a supplier that didn’t charge the $200 shipping that the school’s preferred supplier did, so the line was reduced by that amount. It’s still considerably more, by $1,203, than was spent last year. There are several other cases like this, where reductions were made after lower prices and free shipping were easily found.
Here’s a postcard sent to parents from the National Education Association office in Concord. It’s similarly incomplete and misleading, just listing a cut, but not a cut from what. A fully transparent disclosure would be that the proposed budget is $1.8 million more than schools spent last year, but is somehow insufficient and should be $2.4 million more as requested by the schools.
Please join us, being more informed than these incomplete school-provided publications would have you be, and support the Budget Committee’s recommended school budget. It will provide both the level of education our town expects, and the fiscal responsibility our town deserves.