Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Maureen Sullivan has her say on Tonight's BOE Meeting

I received this email from an indirect source that was copied on Maureen Sullivan's distribution list and they forwarded this email to me. Maureen is a former Kids First member that defected over the Frank Romano selection last year (and other reasons). After her Kids First departure and much online activity by Maureen Sullivan she put together a Real Results slate with former Mayoral candidate Nathan Brinkman and got whipped with a distant third place finish in the polls with their partisan ticket of Republicans. Here is Maureen again in her own words who has been contacted numerous times during 2010 by both the HBJ and MSV and refused to answer specifics as to what she would cut other than recreation programs which would have little effect on the budget.

In this email Maureen focuses on the budget, the superintendent cap and junkets amongst other things besides her seething contempt of Kids First. I do believe Maureen is sincere when she says she will cut more than Kids First but the problem is she does not present substantial cuts to the voters (or at least me) and what the impact will be to the students (if any). It is the voters she will ultimately be accountable to this year and next when her three year term is up.

From Maureen Sullivan BOE Board Member:

January 11, 2011 - School Board meeting tonight

Happy New Year!

I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on some important matters that will come before the School Board on Tuesday. The introduction of the new school budget, the audit of last year's finances, the new superintendent's contract, the departure of interim superintendent Peter Carter, and another high-priced junket for board member Frances Rhodes-Kearns are some of the topics on the agenda.

The board has just gotten a look at the proposed 2011-12 budget as well as the audit of the books for 2009-10. Despite claims of a tax cut from Kids First, the schools portion of our tax rate actually increased from 1.176 per $100 assessed value in calendar year 2009 to 1.199 per $100 in calendar year 2010, according to our outside auditors. For a home assessed at $500,000, that's an increase of $115, when we were assured taxes were not going up.

As we move into budget season, it's clear that "creative accounting" is on the agenda once again. Last year, the board approved a budget of $57,882,147. This year, the administration has drawn up a budget of $57,966,973. That's up slightly, by $84,826. But the administration is presenting this as a cut of 4%. That's because it is comparing one year's total expenditures and revenues, which typically exceed our initial budgets by $2 million, with a proposed budget for the upcoming year. If we stick to apples to apples (comparing the proposed budget for this current year with the one beginning July 1), we've got a higher budget on tap for next year, not a lower one. You can see how misleading this is...this year they say they are cutting the budget 4% and last year Kids First said they cut the budget 7%. With this kind of accounting, there won't be a budget at all in a few years.

Last year, I led the charge against the board approval of a $3,000 junket to Chicago for board member Fran Rhodes-Kearns. I lost that vote, but later the county superintendent vetoed the trip. That didn't stop the board's finance committee from going ahead with approval for her to attend a two-day junket in Washington, D.C. next month to learn how to lobby members of Congress. If it's approved on Tuesday, it will cost taxpayers nearly $1,900, including $450 for a business class train trip on the Acela (specifically forbidden by state statute) and more than $540 in hotel charges.

Among the topics that she will be getting instruction on is learning how to lobby against members of Congress and the U.S. Dept of Education who "voice support for expanding charters... ." As a board, we certainly have never discussed the idea of one of our board members going to Washington to fight charter schools. I'm not sure if the many Hoboken taxpayers who have their children in charter schools want their tax money going to fight those schools.

And the state has finally approved a contract for new superintendent Mark Toback, one that meets the salary cap of $155,000. The board will vote on it at Tuesday's meeting. Despite overwhelming evidence that the state would not approve a superintendent contract over the new cap, and over my objections, the board pushed ahead with a contract that was nearly $20,000 over the state's mandate. And then the board voted 8-1 to sue the state. Would the state have approved a contract last year that met the cap? I think so.

Interim Supt. Peter Carter will depart the district on Jan. 31 and will be replaced by Asst. Supt. Walter Rusak until Dr. Toback gets released from his current contract and begins here.

I encourage you to attend the meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. in the board office at 1115 Clinton St. There is an opportunity at the beginning of the meeting to discuss agenda items and at the end of the meeting for items not on the agenda. Here is the link to the agenda:


Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Best regards,
Maureen Sullivan ◦