To the Editor:
In response to my recent public records demand I received a ream of financial documents, concerning the three preceding fiscal years, from the Wachusett Regional School District, including required independent audits performed by Powers & Sullivan, Certified Public Accountants. The audits show that the WRSD, closing out fiscal 2011, was a $103,226,222 operation (not a $75-$80 million operation) with alarming negative trends. Unfortunately for WRSD taxpayers, that $103 million operation is nominally supervised by a collection of prevaricating fiscal incompetents, headed by Duncan Leith, known as the WRSD School Committee.
WRSD salaries jumped from $45,828,485 in FY 2010 to $47,536,337 in FY 2011, and expenses for employee benefits and insurance jumped from $16,221,390 to $18,747,516 during that time. Those trends are unsustainable. While the WRSD unionized public employee gravy train expanded, “pupil services” spending declined from $2,160,414 in FY 2009 to $2,122,327 in FY 2010 to $2,059,663 in FY 2011. Yes, dear taxpayers, as WRSD unionized public employees, with WRSD School Committee blessings, grab for more pay, correspondingly higher retirement pension payouts, and favorable health and life insurance benefits, what is left over for “pupil services” will continue to shrink, and so will revenues for your respective town government functions.
Symptomatic of the impending fiscal train wreck is WRSD “total net assets,” crashing from $60,486,152 in FY 2008 to $31,747,318 in FY 2011. Powers & Sullivan explain this as resulting primarily from net increases for non-pension “post-employment benefits” illustrated according to Government Accounting Standards Board Statement # 45. The WRSD accrued non-pension post-employment benefit increases of $10.2 million in FY 2009, $6.8 million in FY 2010, and $10.2 million in FY 2011. Following this trend, the WRSD will have $Zero net assets in three years. As of July 1, 2010, WRSD had actuarially accrued unfunded health and life insurance liabilities totaling $101,521,284, for which we taxpayers are on the hook.
Making false budget statements and bilking taxpayers their modus operandi, Duncan Leith and his meretricious band, meanwhile, encourage Superintendent Pandiscio to enhance his WRSD public employee fiefdom and payrolls. He leads the avaricious pack with a salary (paid benefits are extra) of $192,818.62, increasing to over $200,000 next year and yet more the year after. Pandiscio expanded the administrative roster from 50 to 55 recently, foisting yet another cost jump on taxpayers, at $4,999,918.20 in total salaries alone. That averages out to $90,907.60 per administrator. Not on this roster is one John Locke, “curriculum consultant,” who is paid $542 per day, not more than two days each week. That’s $1084 for two days, while we’re paying very highly already for a “Director of Curriculum,” “Curriculum Supervisor,” and “Curriculum Specialists” listed on the roster. Such a deal!
A recent published report revealed that we are paying $2.3 million in salaries for 60 WRSD custodians. When I was kid, St. Leo’s Parish, Leominster, employed 2-3 custodians responsible for the church, two school buildings housing grades 1-8, rectory, convent, and cemetery. They were non-union private sector employees, which explains their high productivity… We don’t need 60 WRSD custodians.
In view of the foregoing I ask that WRSD taxpayers turn out en masse at their respective annual town meetings upcoming and vote down any and all WRSD budget sums requested above state-mandated minimum funding. Pandiscio and his WRSD School Committee enablers require a reinforcing lesson as to whom they owe their primary duty.
James F. Gettens