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School Budget Fact or Fiction?

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Here is the latest on the RSD17 budget issue from Sandra Rabis.

Fact or Fiction?

Haddam has finally awakened and openly started the difficult discussion concerning the Regional School District 17 (RSD17) budget. It is a long overdue and welcome. Unfortunately, we have thus far debated only a few of the line items that should be up for discussion when considering the merits of the overall budget. Hopefully the discussion will continue where the cuts could be made with proper distinction between fact and fiction.


There are additional examples of potential areas for further decreases. These include the cell phone line item ($14,000), the travel expenses, including transportation, meals, hotels and other expenses associated with staff travel ($9,000 and only for superintendent, asst. superintendent and pupil services administrator), the admin incentive based compensation ($12,913.25), the substitute clerical salary ($9,500) and the overtime expenses ($62,357.28). All line items should be on the table for discussion. These numbers, like the administrative salary expenses, are facts.


Consideration of many line items within the budget incites unnecessary fear among parents. Nevertheless, many of the items that require consideration have nothing to do with the quality of education. This is not unlike the business world which had to adapt to economic realities and healthcare fields which underwent scrutiny during the last few years. The business world adapted to the changes demanded by economic realities by giving up the “perks of office” and personal assistants. The healthcare industry accepted higher standards of practice with smaller budgets. At first there was absolutely was panic and chaos. Enduring change seemed impossible. However, the outcome in the business and healthcare has resulted in the efficient and effective delivery of services despite the necessity to answer our own phones and type our own letters. Our perks, including educational reimbursement, have shrunk and we now pay for our own memberships and licenses. We use our own cell phones and get a monthly allowance of $11.00 for doing so while working late on occasion without getting paid overtime. Unlike our school system, six figure salaries for individuals with graduate (doctoral) degrees have become a rarity in business and healthcare enterprises. These, and many other perks, persist in the RSD 17 budget. Again, these are facts and they are evidenced by the line items of the budget.


The level of change necessitated by common core and additional education mandates are evident through examination of the extensive standards published at


No doubt, these standards require expertise in implementation. RSD 17 will need administrative time at the inception in order properly to comply with the new requirements. But the necessary expertise in implementation at the inception does not require the addition of multiple layers of new administrators. In business and healthcare worlds these challenges are satisfied through experts who are hired as consultants to avoid the addition of permanent positions that lead to life-long employment. Using this type of strategy to obtain expertise in implementation of the new standards would save considerable amount of public funds through avoidance of expensive benefits and six-figure pensions. Many of the line items in the budget are defended by the argument that government mandates and compliance issues necessitate hiring additional personnel. Yet, the reality of the facts in business and healthcare demonstrate the desirability of using consultants as experts as opposed to the hiring of full time administrative staff.


The continuation of the debate concerning the budget cost in RSD 17 is necessary to separate fact and fiction. This is not a campaign of negativity. This is a campaign of transparency and honesty. The debate needs to avoid personal criticism, assumptions and hostility. The discussion needs to be factual, and should be based on the facts as found in our RSD17 proposed budget. The budget is available for all to examine Everyone needs to review the budget and have the courage ask the difficult questions without fear of affecting the quality of education to eliminate unnecessary costs. This is the responsible thing to do for every voter and taxpayer.


I continue to encourage you to VOTE NO on June 2nd and remember your vote can make all the difference. Let’s hold the BOE accountable to their philosophical statement, which in part reads:


We are dedicated to effectively prioritizing and being held accountable for the allocation of human, financial and physical resources of the school district to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of all programs and services.


One Response to School Budget Fact or Fiction?

  1. Earle Decker

    May 30, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    Well replied Ms. Rabis. As many of us have said, this is about facts in the real world without hostility, emotion and assumptions. None of this is personal. It’s business….. being paid for by taxpayers.