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.

Schools: Money in, Money out, but who’s keeping the count?

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?


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.

City Council Finance Subcommittee: from left, Capitanio, Lothrop, Clairmont. Mayor Bianchi looks on, right. “So where did the $1 million surplus go, exactly?”

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.



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.

SENIORS AND TAXES: “Boy, You’re gonna carry that weight, carry that weight a long time.”

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




  1. Tom Verizer
    April 7, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

    Planet, how do you do it? Read your story on Catholic News Service on Eden Hill, then you post this the same night? What’s your secret? Anyways agree fully on the nature of the incredibly “accurate” school dept budget. ALso about having seniors work for tax relief while these teen brats get the free ride. Run for mayor, will you, and we can get this city cleansd up.

  2. tito
    April 7, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

    Doesn’t matter at all who the mayor is, this budget has no refunds in it for the taxpayer.

  3. teecha teecha
    April 8, 2013 at 1:13 am #

    I remember back in the day parents, teachers, etc. instilled fear of consequences into the hearts of teenagers who dared to have unprotected sex and get pregnant. It’s disgraceful nowadays. You would think with all the Sandra Flukies in the world people would be taking advantage of all the free birth control we taxpayers are being forced to provide. Don’t even get me started on the single parent tax credit. “Oh, you got knocked up during a drunken binge and a couple of romps in the back of a volkswagon? you poor thing, here’s some EBT and WIC to go purchase lobster and filet mignon steaks.” Disgraceful.

    While I am not even close to being part of the elderly living on social security. I do see family members and friends struggling to make ends meet while the preggateens have their new air jordan shoes and high end wardrobes. /end rant

  4. FPR
    April 8, 2013 at 1:25 am #

    So seniors who can’t do the slave labor will have their houses taken away?

    Perhaps the city can then give those stolen houses to the pregnant teens to raise their children.

    At least these children will have the best schools to go to that money can buy thanks to the slave labor of the elderly.

    • FPR
      April 8, 2013 at 5:46 am #

      I assume the rate of pay is equivalent to what a council member makes. No council member would be arrogant enough to think they are worth more than the labor of the elderly.

      • In the know
        April 8, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

        FPR seniors deserve more than what councilors earn per hour. You may not agree with every vote they make, but for all of the time taking phone calls from constituents, meetings to attend, researching information, calling back constituents they probably make less than minimum wage. Just saying

        • danvalenti
          April 8, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

          Councilors make $8,000 as a stipend plus city health insurance. At $35 an hour, they would have to work 230 hours or almost six full weeks. This figure doesn’t include the benefits. Councilors are well paid for what they do.

          • in the know
            April 9, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

            How about 10 hr per week? That would be over 520hr at around $15 per hr

          • danvalenti
            April 9, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

            You analysis is faulty. First, the council doesn’t meet 52 times a year (summer one meeting a month). Second, there’s no way it reaches 10 hours a week on average, no matter how you inflate it. Third, councilors are “serving,” that is, voluntarily giving of their time as “public service.” They $8,000 “salary” is an honorarium. it could be triple that and it could be $0. You have a losing position here, ITK.

          • In the know
            April 9, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

            Dan. That’s just you opinion I think you have no idea how much time councilors put in. Please prove me wrong.

          • danvalenti
            April 9, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

            I have already done so. “I think …” What you “think” has no bearing on what I know. That closes the discussion for you, my friend.

  5. Ron Kitterman
    April 8, 2013 at 5:40 am #

    Politics is based 90% emotion and 10% facts or reason. I fully agree with all that you say, I don’t see a Ken Jennings winning over Dancing with the Stars anytime soon. On the local level, state or national but that’s just me. That’s why the entire city council endorsed the citizen’s united stand instead of debating it on the facts. We want the fastest, easiest way out. We will continue to raise taxes, print money,borrow money and spend money till the piggy bank is broken.

    • In the know
      April 8, 2013 at 8:10 am #

      Ron. Just curious who paid your police salary? I never heard you complain about taxes when you were a cop. Just saying

      • Yaz Datchinan
        April 8, 2013 at 9:18 am #

        Ron worked as a police officer, played by the rules, and as a matter of fact when a county commissioner if I recall right Ron did complain about taxes.

        • In the know
          April 8, 2013 at 10:15 am #

          It just seems a little bit Hippocrate to start complaining about taxes now that he’s retired.

          • Still wondering
            April 8, 2013 at 11:01 am #

            And it’s a little bit moronic to say what you just did.

          • In the know
            April 8, 2013 at 12:17 pm #


  6. tito
    April 8, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

    Being an officer of the law isn’t as easy as one would like to think. I think they along with all public service employees tow the line and deserve every bit of what they earn.

  7. Gene
    April 8, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

    When you put the projected surplus of $18K against the 90 million budget, the “accuracy” is not believable. Planet you are the only one who is capable of putting the school dept numbers, and the school dept itself, in its place.

    • danvalenti
      April 8, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

      Thanks. I’m not the only one “who is capable,” but I am the only one who does it.

  8. Jonathan Melle
    April 8, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    Pittsfield has a problem with teen pregnancies. Pittsfield is a place with scarce living wage employment, but very high per capita welfare caseloads. I believe in birth control, sexual education, and masturbation in lieu of consensual sex. If teenagers were educated about sex, used birth control, and masturbated in lieu of sex, I believe there would be little to no teen pregnancies. The United States is #1 in the industrialized World for teen pregnancies.
    I read a news article about former Pittsfield resident and former CEO of GE Jack Welch today while I was in the waiting room at the VA Hospital. Jack Welch “reviles” U.S. President Barack Obama. He gives Q&A’s all over the country and World for 6-figures a pop. He talks business and politics to the masses. He sponsors an MBA program with his name at a for-profit college that enlists homeless people who take out student loans. Jack Welch transformed GE from a manufacturing business to a financial institution that almost lost its shirt in the 2 recessions of the 2001 – 2010 decade. Jack Welch retired from GE in 2001. He made hundreds of millions of dollars for himself, while firing over 100,000 GE employees. Jack Welch screwed Pittsfield by GE leaving town. GE was Pittsfield’s economy. Now, Pittsfield’s economy is single teenage mothers on welfare and senior citizens on fixed incomes. There are no jobs in Pittsfield, Massachusetts unless you are connected to the Good Old Boy network.
    Dan Valenti makes his living writing about this. Pittsfield is a dying community. It is a post-industrial town that the financial system left behind. Pittsfield is a reflection of post-industrial America.
    Our nation is ran by the Corporate Elite. Like Jack Welch, the corporate elite has left manufacturing behind for financial gain. The corporate elite has bought a majority of our politicians from our U.S. President on down. The result is staggering socio-economic inequalities between the wealthy and the hundreds of millions of have-nots.

    • FPR
      April 8, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

      Lots of good points there Jonathan.

      You know when you see what’s really going on as Dan makes crystal clear, the only thing you can think of to do is “vote them out”.
      However, many do get voted out. Names change but seems the politics don’t. Taxes constantly increase no matter who is in there.
      They’ve taxed the people to the stone age and now when they can’t pay, they want to make them work – all the way to the grave.

      “A working class hero is something to bleed”.

      The only other thing an individual can do is move out. Which is what I did. Its hard for the elderly who have lived their entire lives in Pittsfield and the logistics of selling their homes and moving is overwhelming.

      Having Dan in as mayor would really shake the city to its core but the GOB network would never allow him to get elected. It is my firm belief that they would do everything in their power to stop it. Also, Dan couldn’t do it alone. He needs lots of people to back him up.

      • danvalenti
        April 8, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

        One of my absolute promises if I were silly enough to run would be this: As reflected in my first budget, the cost of government would go down, if only by $1, and the tax rate for both homeowners and businesses would be lowered, if only by 1 cent. The budget and taxes would be the #1 issue. It has to be, since every other issue in some way stems from the city’s finances. This promise would be absolute and non-negotiable.

        • Still wondering
          April 9, 2013 at 7:25 am #

          Dan, if you actually did what you say you would, desperate people would do desperate things. Too many people depend on the city for their livelyhoods and the band must play on, dontchaknow.

        • In the know
          April 9, 2013 at 8:04 am #

          Dan. If you ran for Mayor all the dirt in your life would be exposed. I’m sure from what I hear you haven’t been a saint.

          • danvalenti
            April 9, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

            What you hear and what you know, in the “know,” are two different things. As for sainthood, I am striving, like all of us. The adventures of my life past, present, and future would in no way deter me from running. The thought of running, my good friend, is tempting simply knowing the agita it would cause retrogressives such as yourself.

  9. Scott
    April 9, 2013 at 4:25 am #

    Dan I’d love to hear your take on Obama saying no one needs more than $205 G’s a year for retirement and his proposal to tax the hell out of every penny over that.

    On teen pregnancy it’s our fault as a society we allow that to happen so we should all be taking small amounts of responsibility and raising our young woman up and as far as the dead beat dads? Now there are some people worthy of the hard hand of the law. My wife and I had a child young. I stuck around and we made it. Now have another kid and a modest home in a good neighborhood. The problem is kids aren’t being taught real values at home from the start. (I wasn’t.) Pair that with the oversexed drug induced lifestyle portrayed by the hip hop culture and you have a recipe for disaster. The worst thing anyone can do is give up on someone. I refuse to give up on anyone especially my own.

    • danvalenti
      April 9, 2013 at 7:25 am #

      You make a lot of excellent points. I love that you “stuck around.” That’s the key. Two parents, lots of involvement, and teaching kids that the hip-hop lifestyle is for losers. I love especially your last sentence. Now THAT’s a parent who gets it.

  10. teecha teecha
    April 9, 2013 at 7:56 am #

    On the topic of oversexed lifestyles, anyone else as disgusted as I am about the new victoria’s secret line of panties. It’s not even so much that it’s marketed towars preteens, but some of the sayings on the garments are dispicable.

    what parents lets their 11-12 year old daughter wear bikini bottoms that read “Feeling Lucky?” and “I Dare You” on the ass and crotch.

    the latter is just welcoming the rape culture. This isn’t expressing oneself. This is whoring your children out and destroying any ounce of dignity they might have had (or you had as a parent)

    On another note, hip hop culture used to be tame, now it’s pure trash. One of the highlights of my month was when Lil Wayne had a seizure from drinking too much codeine. While I wish death on no one, a prolonged coma would have done everyone a whole lotta good.

    • Scott
      April 9, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

      Teecha a parent who would let a child wear something of that nature is no parent at all. My personal opinion is my wife would look superb in the new line…

      Dan, I thought of that later the use of “stick around” I use the term loosely because I didn’t even get a stick around dad for even a weekend! (poor me.) I bet I could get drugs and money for being sad. If one could sue their parents for a crappy childhood my wife and I would be rich!

      • In the know
        April 9, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

        Scott. Good for you ! Great news that some people can get out of the system and be proud enough to make a good life for them selves. Keep up the good work!

        • Scott
          April 10, 2013 at 3:55 am #

          Proud enough? Or understanding the beauty of liberty and individualism. The “system” from welfare to the public school system is meant to brain wash oppress and control people. The public employees don’t care though they just have their hands out for more cash too to heck with actually earning it. If my business looses money guess what I don’t get a raise…

    • Gene
      April 9, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

      Teecha I too was sickened by this blatant whoring of children. This is where our society and culture is heading. My hats off to parents such Scott, who are trying to do the right thing. They must feel like they’re swimming upstream.

      • Scott
        April 10, 2013 at 3:48 am #

        Sometimes I wonder if having the kids help shovel snow would be considered child abuse these days…

  11. tito
    April 9, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    I to have been impressed with Scott, kinda warming up to his style of thinking, fatherhood has a way of mellowing people out.

  12. tito
    April 9, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

    Another ten grand to Downtown Inc. “……….Valenti for Mayor!

    • danvalenti
      April 9, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

      Downtown Inc. would be excised completely, shut down, in my FY15 budget. … Should I be silly enough to run, that is.

  13. tito
    April 9, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    Is Krol really drinking all that water at the Council meetings? He should start paying for his water, he drinks about ten gallons during meetings!

    • danvalenti
      April 9, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

      Hydration is important, especially when one finds oneself in a day, arid environment with plenty of salt.

      • University mom
        April 10, 2013 at 8:59 pm #

        You have a “dry” sense of humor, Dan…get it?
        (I just couldn’t resist)