SBRSD School Committee looks for fall guy, not facts, in budget foul-up

The Friday October 30 issue of the Berkshire Edge contained an article titled, “Southern Berkshire School District budget tangle deepens; business administrator censured.” The article was a pretty accurate description of what took place at the [October 29]meeting. My question is, as the one dissenting member on the School Committee that evening and the only one asking for time to review the issue brought forward by Committee member Dennis Sears, was is this the right way to do business.

Flynn gestures toward Dennis Sears during committee meeting. At the end of the table is Business Administrator Bruce Turner.
Flynn gestures toward Dennis Sears during committee meeting. At the end of the table is Business Administrator Bruce Turner.

By all accounts, it was a simple mistake, a clerical error that is easily corrected, but not so simply resolved. However, was it the type of error that required what appeared to turn into a head-hunt at the SBRSD School meeting on October 29th? Did anyone take the time to research and identify what went wrong or were there too many wounded egos in the room that required some form of retribution, whether justified/legal or not? Was the move in the best interests of the district and the children whom we are tasked with overseeing the education of? Or was it really for something else?

More importantly, were efforts made — is an effort being made? — to address the root cause of the problem? Was this even the fault of the business administrator who appeared to be denied due process as well as being publicly humiliated by an elected body? Consider, first, SBRSD School District Policy DB-R: The Regional District School Committee shall annually determine the amounts necessary to be raised, after deducting the amount of aid such district is to receive pursuant to section sixteen D, to maintain and operate the District school or schools during the next fiscal year, and amounts required for payment of debt and interest incurred by the District which will be due in the said year, and shall apportion the amount so determined among the several municipalities in accordance with the terms of the agreement.

The amounts so apportioned for each municipality shall be certified by the Regional School District treasurer to the treasurers of the several municipalities within thirty days from the date on which the annual budget is adopted by a two-thirds vote of the School Committee, but no later than April thirtieth.

The Regional School District treasurer shall include in the certification to each municipality a statement setting forth the amount which the District is to receive under said section sixteen D for the ensuing fiscal year and the proportionate share of such aid for such municipality.

Further, this policy references MGL 71:16B which says essentially the same thing. Please note that although the document may well have been prepared by the business administrator and there is no specific tasking that states the business administrator shall do this, it is the district treasurer who is required by district policy and by MGL to certify all amounts so apportioned. How many committee members took the time to read this policy and also the law?

SBRSD is a $16M operation, it appears that there is a policy for checks and balances to ensure that the mistakes described above do not happen. Who is responsible for the overall operation of the district? Is that not the Superintendent? Where was he? Don’t our students and our communities deserve better? What a great opportunity to teach problem resolution to our children. Unfortunately, we saw, instead, an opportunity lost.


Charlie Flynn is a member of the Southern Berkshire School Committee from Egremont.