Board has room to improve

I take strong exception to Matthew Craig’s viewpoint article titled “Board values input, working to earn trust.” He states in the article that “for those voters who do not trust the ConVal School Board as far as they can throw them — I highly encourage you to attend some of our meetings and witness, or better yet, contribute to the budget process that starts in early November.”

I suggest Mr. Craig and his cohorts might look inward at their process before they make accusatory comments.

I am a member of the Selectman’s Advisory Committee and we have been raising budgetary concerns and issues with the School Board and their representatives for a number of years and fail to get anyone to listen, much less consider some of the alternatives proposed or offered for discussion.

Perhaps Mr. Craig and his board members should begin by reviewing line item 624 titled fuel oil in the 2013-2014 proposed budget. The amount budgeted is $470,530, an increase of $8,890 over the 2012-2013 budget. My assessment of this line item is the district is paying far too much money for the commodity. Their blended price is $3.47 per gallon and they buy 40,000 gallons at a time with a total purchase of 120,000 gallons per year. It seems to me they should at least be able to match the price we negotiated for Dublin, which was $3.08 per gallon cash, guaranteed for the heating season for a paltry usage of 3,000 gallons. Dublin’s price is 11 percent less than the district. Apply that 11 percent to the total on line No. 624 and you ring up a savings of $51,758 on this one line item and this is not the first year this fuel oil pricing concern has been raised to the administration. Their response is that they don’t have the time to go out to bid or that they have too many drops to make and that is an obstacle to better pricing.

What they don’t seem to understand is that they need to step up their negotiating skills and realize they are running a $44 million business.

The same logic holds true for propane — our price is $1.69; their price is $1.9137. It seems as though Mr. Craig thinks this performance should instill trust in the board. My concern is if they can’t get something as simple as fuel oil right, how can they ever negotiate the best price on supplies, line item No. 610 that is budgeted for $907,269 or software support, line item No. 650 budgeted for $206,852, or gasoline/diesel, line item 656 for $414,000, etc.? This performance certainly doesn’t instill confidence in the process.

In my opinion, we shouldn’t have to attend every budget meeting the School Board has to ask a question and receive a well thought out response. I don’t ask the taxpayers in Dublin to attend every Selectman’s meeting or the numerous meetings of our Budget Committee throughout the year but if they ask a question, I will do my best to answer it as completely as I can and take the necessary time to research as required, perhaps learning how to do better the next time.

I fully understand the time commitment involved on the part of our School Board members and appreciate the importance of providing the best in education for our children but I don’t understand nor do I appreciate the board’s inability or unwillingness to take a critical look at this administration and ConVal’s operation with the objective of making it better and hopefully less expensive for all of us. There are significant opportunities for improvement.

Charles F. Champagne is a resident of Dublin, a Select Board member and a member of ConVal’s Selectman’s Advisory Committee.

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