Blame The Taxpayer Group Not The Professionals

Kudos to the activists of the mighty Monadnock School Taxpayers Association who have been digging into and not letting go of the salary padding scheme at that school.

In an effort to inflate retirement benefits of Monadnock Regional School District employees, the financial gurus at the school put health care payments into the payroll mix which pumped up the final year salary figures for 38 present and past employees. This would allow these few to get a larger retirement payment than their salary would legally allow under state laws.

Put simply, only payroll and any other payments to employees which are included in income taxable by the IRS can be used for retirement calculations.

I don’t blame any school employees that took the offer from higher-ups in the education industry but they were misled. The report from the N.H. Retirement System Hearings Examiner Carolyn F. Johnson couldn’t be more clear and in line with the wording in the statutes.

This all began, as far as we at CNHT know, about a year and a half ago when Dick Bauries and Dan Connell of the Monadnock School Taxpayers Association asked me if I would go with them to a scheduled meeting they set up with the NH Retirement Board in Concord. There was not much in the way of contact with MSTA after that because they kept monitoring meetings on their own.

Now this hits the fan. Other schools and towns may be doing the same thing, which is putting great stress on the already beleaguered retirement system.

We also have some sealed minutes of meetings from the issue in the hands of the school district which we might have to drag out of them through the 91-A process. We’ll see.

On April 12, the Keene Sentinel had a very large and detailed set of stories about this issue on the front page. The reporter, Anika Clark, did a great job of detailing amounts, dates, and statutes. Let’s hope she can stay with this story and follow up.

As could be expected, a quote from a public education expert working at the school, who’s income was inflated in this scheme, falls back on this old excuse, “The devil made me do it.”

Here is the quote from the Keene sentinel story:

"Unfortunately, the heavy involvement of the Monadnock Taxpayer Association ... made it impossible to give me a salary increase because the budget would never pass," he wrote. "Since I was within two years of retirement, the decision was reached to at least reflect the salary I should have received by paying my health insurance."

Thus whines Mr. Biron who was Unit 38's business manager from 2000-06.

Blame the taxpayer group? OK!!!

As long as we take into consideration that the finance team experts at Monadnock ‘lost a decimal point” in the 2000-2001 budget which ran the school $994,000.00 in debt. They “found” a way to cut the budget by this $994,000.00 without a special meeting to cover their mistake. ?????????

Oh, and since 1998 and the last year reported, 2006-07, the number of students in Monadnock has dropped by 453.

Somehow I don’t think this is all the fault of the Monadnock School Taxpayers.