To the editor:
Spring is in the air and along with the crocus and daffodils comes the Ipswich School Department's annual cry for more money.
As they do each year, they claimed to be considering the time-honored drastic cuts that will scare the greatest number of parents but in the end all cuts are voted down because we are told they have already cut to the bone and beyond. So it becomes obvious that they are either incapable or unwilling to find any solution other than squeezing the beleaguered taxpayers a little harder.
Last year, the town officials sought outside help to evaluate the recreation department. The department's entire budget was about $100,000, an amount equal to the salary of just one of the School Department's lower-paid administrators. That's a far cry from the $24-plus million, which is 60 percent of the town's entire budget, that the School Department receives. So would it not make sense to have an audit by an impartial source?
The Hamilton-Wenham school system has had three audits in the past year. According to a Boston Globe article, in all three audits the school district was found to have more money than they had previously indicated. The first audit resulted in $500,000 being returned to the taxpayers. In December 2011, the School Department revealed it found enough unused money in its 2010 budget to pay $794,000 for a new heating system in one of their schools — the same heating system that they had requested and received approval to secure long-term financing for at the 2009 Town Meeting. The most recent audit on Feb. 16 showed that at the end of 2011 there was approximately $1,636,000 cash left, while the district reported there was only $600,000 in its excess and deficiencies fund.
While results would no doubt differ from town to town, any one of those returns would be welcome.
The latest money grab being plotted by the Ipswich School Committee is to shift $300,000 of post-employee benefit costs out of their budget.
This is particularly galling because they are directly responsible for granting these generous salary and benefit packages. I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't have an excess and deficiencies fund.