SCHOOL DEPARTMENT BUDGET CZARINA BEHNKE WOULD HAVE US BELIEVE HER BUDGET IS 99.9998% ACCURATE … RIDICULOUS STATEMENT IS PRELUDE TO ANNUAL BUDGET SHAKEDOWN … TEEN & PREGNANT? NO PROBLEM. TAXPAYER WILL SUPPORT YOU. ELDERLY AND OVER-TAXED? GET TO WORK, YOU OLD COOT
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, APRIL 8, 2013) — How accurate are you when it comes to your personal budgeting? THE PLANET, in asking, presupposes that you do budget or if you don’t at least know the principles behind the allocation of money received and money sent.
A budget is a projected spending plan. You estimate expected income for a give period of time versus anticipated expenditures. If you expect income to drop, you tighten the belt on the expense side. That’s what you must do in the Dreaded Private Sector or in running your household. Government, as we have seen, budgets in an opposite fashion. First, it decides how much money it wants to spend. Second, after having done that, it knows how much to raise taxes. In short, government rarely if ever considers revenue first. That is its biggest financial mistake when it comes to YOUR money.
Budgets are living documents, so to speak, since they need adjustment as time goes on. No one can know precisely in forecasting the exact amounts of revenue in and out. Keep this in mind as we present this exclusive look at the Pittsfield School Department budget.
Fat Cows Have Large Cuds
When you’re budgeting for an annual cash cow with a $90 million cud, as the Pittsfield School Department must do, it’s not possible to be 100% accurate. There will be unanticipated movement in both the direction of expenditure and income. Add to that the complex nature of the school department budget, one that includes the usual convolutions of accounting plus those deliberately added on so that taxpayers will have a hard time following the money, and more would expect budgeting to be less than exact, more art and artless than science.
Give that, Kristen Behnke, PSD assistant superintendent and the one who handles the department budget, claims the schools will have a surplus of $18,391 at the end of the school year. Look at that number. What do you see?
THE PLANET sees:
a.) a reassuringly exact figure and
b.) one with seeming heft.
(A) is that way, no doubt, to convey the warm glow that those who have pulled this number out of the hat know what they’re doing. Gosh, you’d have to be on the ball, right, to produce that precise of a number. (B) is that way to appear on first glance to be more than trifling. The schools don’t want to risk having a surplus of $79 (or thereabouts), as they did several years ago, that is, a figure so small as to advertise its own fraudulent nature.
An Astounding (and Fake) Budgetary Accuracy
To put Behnke’s $18,391 in perspective, given the $90 million-plus school budget, the PSD has budgeted with an accuracy of 0.00020%. That is what the department is asking taxpayers to believe about its forecasting. You could put five exclamation points after that percentage and still be unable to convey its mistrustful nature. It’s just not believable that the department could budget with that kind of precision.
Assuming that the Pittsfield school system does not in Behnke have the greatest financial prognosticator of all time, the only other explanation that has both logic behind it and plausibility underneath it is that the books have been cooked. This is a fake number. The “bookkeeping” will add up, of course, but the wisdom of the expenses will not. The number suggests that the schools will be damned sure to spend nearly all of the projected money — 99.999% of it — rather than spend responsibly and return a good chunk back to the general fund.
It wasn’t that long ago that our Right Honorable Good Friends on the Pittsfield city council’s financial subcommittee were trying to get the school department to explain what appeared to be a surplus of ranging from $935,000 to more than $1 million.
That was all a mirage, Behnke is now saying. The $1 million surplus has been whittled down by more than $980,000. In providing the $18,391 number, she’s saying: “See, we needed just about every dime.” Right, except that those who are familiar with the lack of accountability within this porous city department aren’t buying it. THE PLANET, for one, does not accept Behnke’s explanation of the budget if it means accepting her ability to budget with a 99.9998% accuracy.
Behnke’s Claims are Not Credible
Her statements to the school committee and to the council’s finance subcommittee are not believable.
We would feel better if they just came out and told Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski: “We’re funning with you. Don’t ask questions. Just shut the heck up and keep paying, especially when your taxes go up again this year.” That, at least, is honest.
Don’t buy it, folks. They’re lying through their teeth. They always do that prior to talking budget for the next fiscal year. Once again, the tired exercise will be upon you, the taxpayers. The school department will ask for — no, demand — more money. It will bring 50 or so “advocates” to the relevant school committee and council budget hearings. These people will bring “The Children” with them and once again use them as human shields. They will openly dare any politicians to “mess with our money.”
Oh, that some would.
Oh, that some would.
PREGGERS TEEN GETS ALL SORTS OF $$ SUPPORT BUT OVER-TAXED ELDERLY IN PITTSFIELD HAVE TO BREAK ROCKS IN THE HOT SUN
Speaking of taxes, if you’re a single, teen-age girl, and you have a baby by some deadbeat dad, no sweat. Taxpayers are required to give you child support. It becomes the taxpayers problem to see that the baby you were stupid enough to have receives “proper living standards” and a “high quality education.”
Child support is calculated on the basis of the parents’ income. In other words, if there’s no dad around and the mom is unemployed, you’re talking “free ride.” You have nothing to contribute, but no sweat. The taxpayers is there to clean up after your mess. For parents whose income is below the state’s average wage, the mom receives money based on “potential income.” In other words, they make up a theoretical number of “possible earnings,” a fake number employed for the sole reason of handing out “free” money. Besides child support, Massachusetts supplies grants, food stamps, and scholarships.
What if you’re a senior citizen, though, who lives in Pittsfield? You worked hard all your life, and now you’re trying to get by on a fixed income, say, Social Security plus a small pension. Your taxes have gone up every year for a generation now, without a break. If you’re that person, you’re tough out of luck.
Breaking Rocks in the Hot Sun
Without a break, we say? Actually, your city council proposes allowing you to work off up to $1,000 of your taxes. Pretty neat, eh? The teen who gets preggers receives a free ride. The senior who made this city what it was gets to work on the rock pile, making little ones out of big ones. THE PLANET doesn’t know what kind of work the council had in mind, since it did not draft any language on the parameters of the program. That doesn’t matter, however. To require senior the option of “working off” up to $1,000 in taxes is an insult to every hard-working, law-abiding good citizen. It would be far better to require work in return from the deadbeats who are the receiving end of the taxpayers’ “free” cash.
“We all agree we want to do something for our seniors,” said a grandstanding Melissa Mazzeo.
Is that so? Then how about voting to reduce city spending, reigning in a porked-out government that keeps getting fatter each year, and reducing tax rates? It can be done. All Mayor Dan Bianchi, the city council, and the school committee need is to grow a set of political spines.
For all sorts of reason, the “work for tax credit” program is a bad one. As we said, how about making the free-loaders at the other end of the Gimme Game work instead?
“Angels are never in caverns.” — Edgar Lee Masters
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL