By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
Fourth in a Four-Part PLANET Exclusive Literary Autopsy on Pittsfield’s FY15 Municipal Budget
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEEKEND EDITION, MAY 30 to JUNE 1, 2014) — THE PLANET could spend from now till financial Doomsday (coming soon to Pittsfield) writing prose poems about the vagaries of the FY15 budget proposed by Mayor Dan Bianchi, more popularly known as The Empty Suit (TES). You will be pleased to know, however, that we shall not do this. If you haven’t been aroused to action by now, forget it.
…this final column.
Today, we shall try one more strategy — that of pointing out the hypocrisy and greed buried in the Pittsfield School Department budget. Keep in mind this budget has already been through three of the four possible screens or firewalls that are allegedly there to guard taxpayers’ wallets. First, the superintendent and resident card shark, Jason “JIV” McCandless, sent along his massive request. No help there, taxpayers, as JIV loaded more boulders upon your breaking backs. Second, the 7-0 Pittsfield School Committee, “led” by The Empty High Heels Kathy Yon (TEHH), rubber stamped JIV’s request. The school committee throws so many 7-0 shutouts that THE PLANET will nominate them for this year’s Cy Young Award. Shot down again, People. Third, The Empty Suit took the JIV’s request and saw in it delusions of political grandeur, choosing to leave every penny intact. Great big ballsy yarblockos to you, Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski.
The Final Fire Wall: The Council
The final fire wall between your pocketbook emptying and eventual financial ruin for the municipality is the city council. This motley collection of our Right Honorable Good Friends thus far has shown no interest in coming to your rescue from JIV’s money grab of the mayor’s pipsqueak support of it. For example, when Ward 5 councilor Jonathan Lothrop went on “Good Morning, Pittsfield” Tuesday (5/27), he explained to his council colleague John Krol how much he loved the increase in spending, particularly the multimillion hike for the schools.
Ah, yes: the schools.
Where do we begin? THE PLANET shall focus on three things: (1) The key salaries of the top-heavy the administration, which has more layers than the filo dough in a baclava. (2) The dishonest nature of the school’s budget presentation and the true cost to taxpayers. (3) A look at the school budget under The Empty Suit.
1. ADMINISTRATIVE SALARIES (NOTE: None of the salaries include benefits, which adds about 30% to the listed compensation).
When Pittsfield had twice the number of students and a fraction of the number of staff, one — count him — one superintendent ran the whole show. He had one — count her — one secretary. Today, taxpayers have to pay for the following administrative positions:
* A superintendent making $157,000
* Deputy superintendent, $120,000
* Assistant superintendent, personnel. This apparently is a new position, job currently open, and it will make well north of $100,000. Keep in mind the city also has its own HR stiff.
* 11 secretaries, $443,381
* 10 Lords a Leaping, priceless.
* Director of human resources, $87,500. Again, the city also has a HR director. More duplication.
* Assistant superintendent, vocational, $91,928
* Assistant superintendent, business and finance, $97,500. Sue Carmel holds the same post on city side. Sue Carmel. Is that a name of an imperative sentence? Yet more duplication.
* Assistant business manager, $55,000 (they’re skinning the guy!). More duplication.
* Miscellaneous (legal settlements, legal services, central office, and some other things), $360,100.
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The schools will spend a prohibitive $1,603,317 on administration alone. That’s up 5.27% from last year. Add 30% in benefits, and you arrive at $482,217. Total true cost of the PSD administration: $2,089,616
2. THE SHELL GAME
Look at the final budget request for the schools. The city tells you the schools will receive $57,234,399, or 38% percent of the total city budget.
The true total must add the cost of:
— providing health and other insurances;
— running and maintaining bus service for a fleet of more than 60 vehicles;
— maintenance and other miscellaneous costs.
You ask, why must we add these costs to obtain the true cost of running city schools? Reason: With cooperation of the city, the PSD hides these costs in the “city side” of the spending plan. To extract the figures, one must provide reasonable estimates. THE PLANET has figured conservatively.
*Insurances — $25 million (schools have 85% of the city’s expenses on salary). Remember that 85% of the school department budget goes to compensate staff.
* Pension — $12 million
* Buses — $6 million
* Maintenance and miscellaneous — $1 million
Consequently, a reasonable estimate of hidden costs to run the PSD is $35 million
Total true cost of the PSD to taxpayers: 57,234,399 + $44 million = $102,234,399. This doesn’t count about $7 million in federal money. This is not 38%. This is 70%. This also doesn’t include the loss of almost $4 million from the almost 500 students who have been taken out of the Pittsfield Public Schools to attend another county school through the school-choice program.
3. THREE SCHOOL BUDGETS UNDER MAYOR BIANCHI
The Empty Suit is the only mayor in the past generation (Smith, Wojtkowski, Reilly, Doyle, Hathaway, Ruberto) who has not either cut the overall budget, cut the school budget, or at least level-funded schools. Every other mayor had at least a moment or two of “getting it.” The pipsqueak has only hiked spending.
Bianchi only knows the politics of finances, not the realities of finances — and finances were supposed to be this guy’s area of expertise. When they call in the “experts,” you can expect a hosing. The mayor’s three FY budgets are as follows:
FY13 — $53,806,701
FY14 — $55,524,399
FY15 — $57,234,399.
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Notice how the final four digits of the FY14 budget and the FY15 request are the same. This is the “smoking gun” clue that arriving at a school budget is not a matter of matching actual needs with available funds. Rather, it is a game where finance directors Kristen “Tex” Behnke (schools) and Carmel (city) simply plug in % increases from the previous year’s total. If this budget process were actual, the results would never come in the same, with one notable exception: If the school budget were frozen from one year to the next. Sue Carmel. Yes, why don’t we?
Kristen “Tex” Behnke and Sue “The Empty High Heels II” Carmel obviously understand their jobs in a different way than THE PLANET and taxpayers. The latter (us) expect fiscal responsibility. The former (them) expect to don knee pads to please their greedy bosses.
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When JLO, The Suits, and the rest of The Special Interests “complain” how taxpayers are cheating the PSD, don’t take it.
Get in their faces. Tell them you vote.
Even if you don’t.
Remember: “It’s for the Children.”
Have a great weekend everybody!
“I don’t try to imagine a personal God; it suffices to stand in awe at the structure of the world, insofar as it allows our inadequate senses to appreciate it.” — Albert Einstein
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.