PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, MARCH 8, 2013) — As an attachment to his invitation to the Pittsfield School Department to join a late-February budget review by the city council’s finance subcommittee of the FY13 spending plan, subcommittee member Barry Clairmont sent seven “questions” to the school department administration.

Each of the questions references a specific line item of the FY13 school department budget. They are published here for the first time:

Clairmont’s Questions for the Schools on the Latter’s Budget

[Clairmont writing; the underlines were put in by THE PLANET for emphasis] Questions on School budget:

The following questions are based on looking at November and December spending rates, averaging them and multiplying them by 6 for the remaining half of the year.  Then I subtracted that amount from the amount remaining available budget to develop these observations.  Please explain if there are errors in my methodology or observations.

 1)  Line 62014 – Teachers:  If appears that we may come in around $4.65 million under budget

2)  Line 62018 – Voc’l & OE Teachers: It appears we come in $250,000 under budget

3)  Line62013 – Guidance Counselors:  It appears we may come in $215,000 under budget

4)  Line 62159 – Juvenile Resource Center:  It appears we come in $140,000 under budget

5)  Line 63047 – Bus Drivers:  It appears we may come in $200,000 under budget

6)  Line 64115 – Fuel:  Please explain why we have only spent $24,000 of a $1,240,635 budget

7)  Line 64116 – Electricity:  It appears we may come in $348,000 under budget

—– 00 —–

A Million Here, A Million There …

 THE PLANET took Clairmont’s calculations and we determine that there is, as of this moment, a $935,000 surplus in the school department spending plan, not counting the fuel notation in Line 6. That could easily push the total above the $1 million mark.

 You can see now why Clairmont, an accountant by profession, would want the school department to attend the finance subcommittee’s Feb. 27 meeting. It would provide a “one-stop-shopping” review of city side and school side budgets. If Clairmont’s assessments are correct, it means the school’s should be sending back $1 million to taxpayers. That should get everyone’s attention.You’ll recall in years past the school department sending back next to nothing. It is becoming more clear to the sharp, observant, and accountable eye that in these previous years, the school department has been somehow hiding surplus money. The question is “How?” Last year, a big deal was made when the schools returned $190,000 to the city coffers. Why all of a sudden? What changed between last year and the years previous? Did Jake Eberwein III get overcome by his conscience? Did the school department administration suddenly develop honesty and concern for Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski? We doubt it, although in a city still functioning without e-mail addresses on its website (this is 2013, after all), nothing would surprise us? Did Mayor Dan Bianchi win one for taxpayers? If so, the mayor deserves the credit and should remind us of this during campaign season.
Marquee Event: March 13, School Committee Meeting; Get Your Tickets Now
All of this sets up the March 13 school committee meeting as one of the “can’t misses” of the year. That’s the date when the council’s finance subcommittee, having graciously accepted interim Supt. Dr. Gordon Noseworthy’s reverse invitation, will appear during the school department budget review. We wonder if the matter of $1 million surplus will be raised, and what, if any, excuses school side will dream up for our Right Honorable Good Friends from the council.

Letters Sent, Notes Exchanged
On Feb. 22, Clairmont sent his seven questions to Dr. Noseworthy, with a cc: to school department budget queen Kris Behnke:
—– 00 —–

From: Clairmont, Barry
Sent: Friday, February 22, 2013 6:52 AM
To:; Behnke, Kristen
Subject: Questions I have on school budget

Good morning,

Attached is a word document containing my questions concerning the
School Department’s budget.  I will review these item at the City
Council Committee on Finance at our meeting on Wednesday February 27,

I would appreciate it if you could provide me responses to my
observations, as I do not want to accidentially misrepresent the status
of the School Department budget.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to assist me in this process.

Barry Clairmont
Councilor At-Large


As we pointed out yesterday, Noseworthy decides not to accept Clairmont’s invitation. Instead, he turns tables and sends a reverse invitation to the councilor. Note in his e-mail that Noseworthy never acknowledges Clairmont’s invitation. In agency parlance, that is known as “credible deniability.” Frankly, we find it incredible that a superintendent would act in such a clandestine manner, interim or otherwise.

—– 00 —–

From: Gordon Noseworthy []
Sent: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 10:34 AM
To: Clairmont, Barry
Cc: ALFRED E.; Behnke, Kristen
Subject: Re: Questions I have on school budget

Hi Barry,
I do hope you vote to accept the invitation of the School Committee to
attend the March 13th meeting.  In that venue Ms. Behnke could respond
to your questions after which you could review the accurate information
with your committee.

—– 00 —–

As we head into the weekend, here is the question THE PLANET would like to leave everyone in light of our two-part series.

* How trustworthy can the budgetary process of the Pittsfield School Department be?

This is an “umbrella question,” which actually has many parts, but basically, as we see it, the questions truly boils down to trust. At stake is the allotment of money for a department that each year does nothing but ask for more more more. It does so in “the name of The Children.” It does so only after creating an atmosphere of fear and suspicion, making crazy claims against anyone who dares do what Clairmont has done and what Terry Kinnas has done, which is to ask intelligent questions of a $90 million departmental process that has largely been without accountability.

THE PLANET invites your views on this key issue. Keep in mind that before too long, Mayor Bianchi as well as the School Department will be submitting their financing requests for FY14. As never before, you as citizens must pay close attention to what they ask for and how they ask.

In this age of recession and sequestering, it has finally become time to put hard questions to each and every dollar that the wasteful schools have eaten up on “your behalf.”

With friends like that …

We look forward to your input. Have a great weekend, everybody.


“The memory throws up high and dry / A crowd of twisted things; / A twisted branch upon the beach / Eaten smooth, and polished / As if the world gave up / The secret of its skeleton, / Stiff and white. / A broken spring in a factory yard, / Rust that clings to the form that the strength has left / Hard and curled and ready to snap.”T.S. Eliot, “Rhapsody on a Windy Night.”





  1. Blind Justice
    March 8, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    That is what happens when you give CROOKS, a 70 million dollar credit line WITHOUT SUPERVISION

  2. B
    March 8, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    The city is lucky that we have Barry Clairmont on the council because he knows his numbers and cares for the people of Pittsfield. It seems that he is not afraid to take on what others aren’t willing to touch. I say Clairmont and Kinnas are the only two who are taking on the questionable school department, thumbs uo to the two of you.

  3. Jonathan Melle
    March 8, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    Pittsfield receives many millions of dollars in education funding from the state government. That is why Pittsfield spends so much of its yearly budget on its schools. It is a business. Dan Valenti is reading too much into the issue. The schools are Pittsfield’s cash cow.

  4. teecha teecha
    March 8, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    that’s true jonathan, however if they are 1 million under budget, which is a great thing, why are they not giving the money back to the people? It seems they are lining their pockets anyway they can with bullshit programs and the like. Just because it’s the cities cash cow doesn’t mean they have a right to screw the taxpayers

  5. teecha teecha
    March 8, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

    note all grammatical errors are due to auto correct. darnit

  6. Scott
    March 8, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    So is it too difficult to move the money around from one area that doesn’t need it to another area that does???

  7. Joe Pinhead
    March 8, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    I hope someone asks for an accounting of those same line items from past budgets as well. How where those numbers derived if they are so off base? One would think that the line items are developed from last year factoring in items such as inflation, new requirements and programs. If those line items are truly that far off it points to a lack of understanding the programs and services those line items control.
    I agree that’s going to be must see TV

    Just sayin

    • danvalenti
      March 9, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

      JOE P
      You raise a crucial question. If evidence of this much over-budgeting can be found this year, how much more was there in “extra” in budget past that was NOT returned to the city coffers but encumbered with phony spending by the schools. The schools have been picking taxpayers clean to the bone. The March 13 meeting, we hope, will be “Gunfight at the OK Corral.” Figuratively speaking, of cuss.

  8. Joe Blow
    March 8, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    What really burns my ass about the school budget is I have no children but I’m paying for everyone else”s. Just like all of the baby momma’s getting checks for thousands from the IRS…the only problem is they didn’t put anything in! Fraud and waste flows from Washington D.C. down to Pittsfield Ma. just like shit down a hill. I hope Clairmont keeps digging and does not back down. Where is Bianchi in all of this and what is he doing?

    • danvalenti
      March 9, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

      This is what’s sucking Pittsfield dry: The takers, who contribute nothing, and the givers, who have to support them. Too many of the first are killing off what remains of the second.

      • Mike Ward
        March 10, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

        It seems like there’s an anti-breeder undercurrent on the Planet. I guess it’s a subset of the pay-as-you-go debate. Is education an investment in our society or a cost of parenthood? I say investment, but of course I’m one of those takers with kids in the school system.

        • Joe Pinhead
          March 10, 2013 at 1:41 pm #

          I’m just asking is it possible we have failed to build a “community” that reflects the community? By going beyond net school spending have we neglected seniors or any other segments of the population? I mean the money has to come from somewhere right? Maybe its time to explore community based budgeting.

          Just sayin

          • Mike Ward
            March 10, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

            It depends. Seniors in Lenox who wish to sell their house and move to Florida will enjoy a high property value that is at least partly due to being in a desirable school district.

          • Joe Pinhead
            March 10, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

            I don’t think that’s the population sub set that is feeling pinched though. It the set that wants to stay local or possibly they have no house to sell etc. The reasons are as varied as the number of people. Participatory Budgeting is an interesting process gaining popularity across the country worth looking at for a portion of the budget.

          • Joe Pinhead
            March 10, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

            In short the push back regarding the school costs or investments is merely a symptom I think the real issue(s) are not being resolved. I think the above poster was not complaining so much about those who will treat the school system as an investment, but instead might have been lamenting about teen pregnancy, welfare or “entitlement” spending. The issues go way past what property values are if you sell to flee to Florida. What if we invest everything in the schools and there’s no jobs here who will buy your house?
            Just sayin

          • danvalenti
            March 10, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

            JOE P
            The definition of “community” should be at the heart of Campaign 2013 in Pittsfield, a city that not only has lost its importance as the County Seat but one that has lost a belief in itself. In a sense, all of the columns we’ve ever published on THE PLANET can be seen as an attempt to redefine “community” for the once-proud city of Pittsfield.

        • joetaxpayer
          March 10, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

          I wish money could solve all of the problems with public schools. Some of the most successful schools spend far less than us. Nobody should worry there pretty heads about the 1 million dollar surplus, they will use it before they lose it, all for the sake of the children.

          • Mike Ward
            March 10, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

            My point was that a strong school district pays direct and indirect dividends. Families buy homes there because of the good schools. Savvy people without children also buy homes there because it will be easier to sell one day. The reputation of a city’s school department is probably the most important index to someone moving from another area.

        • joetaxpayer
          March 10, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

          With school choice and private and parochial schools to chose from I don’t believe it is the number 1 reason someone moves to a area. That being said, we still must try to have the best school system to meet our children’s needs. I just feel that money is not the answer to solving the problem.

          • dusty
            March 10, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

            Mike if as you say the reputation of a city’s school department is the most important index for people relocating then Pittsfield may become a ghost town. The current crop and the guy put in charge are certainly are not instilling a whole lot of confidence in the future of the cities children. If I had children in the Pittsfield public school system I would yank them out based only on watching a couple of school committee meetings. From me they get a vote of No Confidence.

        • Scott
          March 10, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

          Mike Ward i have gotten that anti “breeder” feeling too. Children are our future and whether you have children or not raising society to a prosperous sustainable intelligent future should be the goal no???

  9. Tim
    March 8, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    Wait, didn’t yesterday’s blog state that salaries are $4.6 mil under budget? Why are we only talking about a surplus of $1 mil?

  10. Dave
    March 8, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

    totally unrelated- Matt Torra(Pittsfield Native) pitching in the WBC for Italy-no mention in the BB no mention here either from a baseball author. One inning yesterday in an upset of Mexico, one hit no k’s no bb’s if anyone gives a hoot about a local guy.

    • danvalenti
      March 9, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

      Thanks for letting us know.

  11. Ron Kitterman
    March 8, 2013 at 11:08 pm # – Howard Herman is very fair to our locals maybe they will do a follow up on it though….

  12. dusty
    March 9, 2013 at 5:42 am #

    So who believes that the mayor should have control over picking the Fire and Police chief at will? As opposed from choosing from a civil service list. and why?

    • danvalenti
      March 9, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

      There are arguments to be made for both methods, Dusty, but I think the most compelling would be to let civil service take the politics out of the appointments.

  13. Mr. X
    March 9, 2013 at 6:16 am #

    Nice!! $1.5mil for the burnt DPW facility, maybe we should store more flammable stuff near heaters in more city buildings, could add up to a lot of cash!!

    • danvalenti
      March 9, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

      Crime pays, apparently.

    March 9, 2013 at 6:33 am #

    Seems like only yesterday he was “Dancing Barry”. Now he’s second only to Terry Kinnas in stature and respect.

    • MaryKate
      March 9, 2013 at 8:42 am #

      Yesterday he was “Dancing Barry” because he was aligning himself with some questionable councilors. Even though he was referred to as such, he still responded respectfully to questions and remarks on this blog in a professional manner. He, unlike many others, maintained his professionalism instead of falling into a heap of “hurt feelings.” He has stood tall and is showing he works for the citizens. This brings to mind other councilors who talked the talk, but failed to walk the walk. “Dancing Barry” seems to be walking the walk. After all, actions do speak louder than words…so, keep dancing Barry! Mary Jane and Joe Kapinsky need a financial brain like yours on their side.

      • danvalenti
        March 9, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

        Mary Kate
        As I said, both Barry and I got off to a rough start with respect to each other. We both kept open minds and open lines of communication. I agree with you about actions and about the hope that Barry keeps “dancing” for Mary Jane and Joe, my two favorite people in the world.

    • danvalenti
      March 9, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

      Yes, isn’t an open mind a wonderful thing to have?

      • AMBROSE
        March 10, 2013 at 8:55 am #

        You wouldn’t know.

        • danvalenti
          March 10, 2013 at 8:59 am #

          Au contraire, mon ami, although it puzzles us why it troubles you so to admit it. La appepitae pieu, or, in English: Be well. Be open.

          • AMBROSE
            March 10, 2013 at 9:43 am #

            admit what?

  15. Gene
    March 10, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

    Dan as I have watched your relationship with councilor Clairmont evolve and grow I am impressed by both of you.You have both shown yourselves to be models of how press and pols can form productive relationships even if the beginnings are difficult.

  16. tito
    March 10, 2013 at 2:15 pm #


  17. Gene
    March 10, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

    Why pulleese? This might relationship might end uip saving taxpayers a million dollars.