Holden Residents Speak Out In Wake Of Selectman Protest

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Holden Selectman Mark Ferguson addressed the Board of Selectmen from the lectern on Monday about his recent protest of the Wachusett Regional School District's asking the town to pay $2,300 for a copy of its budget.
Holden Selectman Mark Ferguson addressed the Board of Selectmen from the lectern on Monday about his recent protest of the Wachusett Regional School District's asking the town to pay $2,300 for a copy of its budget.

HOLDEN, Mass. —  Holden residents turned out to the Board of Selectmen meeting Monday to weigh in on Selectman Mark Ferguson's recent protest and criticism of the school district — a complaint prompted by the district's asking the town to pay $2,300 for a complete copy of its budget documents.

At a board meeting in November, before School Committee Chair Duncan Leith delivered his regular update on the schools, Ferguson made an impassioned speech about the Wachusett Regional School District's failure to provide a copy of the budget, turned his chair backward and left the meeting in protest.

Leith left the lectern following the remarks, saying he did not need to be treated that way.

During a period for citizens to address the board Monday night, Hal Lane said the actions were "by far the worst attack I had ever seen by an elected official in this town at a scheduled meeting."

"It was even more disturbing because the uncalled for and arrogant attack was on an elected official of this town who was appearing at the meeting on the invitation of the board," Lane said.

Lane said the board should use its right to censure members who "resort to antics not consistent with the charter of the town."

In contrast, resident Ed Meyer applauded Ferguson's actions "for having the guts to walk out on Duncan Leith and his continued refusal to provide the towns with a copy of the seriously flawed budget."

Meyer instead pushed for the Wachusett Regional School Committee chairman and other senior members of the committee to resign.

Addressing the board from the lectern, Ferguson was unapologetic about his earlier protest.

"For others who want to apologize, you can apologize for the taxpayers," he said. "Those are the people that should be apologized to, for the lack of financial oversight by the Wachusett Regional School District."

Ferguson stressed that the board still does not have a copy of the requested budget documents, and that beyond a 12-page version online, it is not available to the public.

"I would like to get the entire budget, so we can see line by line where our money is going," he said.

Selectman Anthony Renzoni said he had also had the same problem, finding only the vague 12-page budget online rather than the more than 7,000 pages of Municipal Information System documents that account for every purchase.

The Board of Selectmen endorsed a further request for an electronic copy of the complete documents at no charge from the school district. The district has more summary financial information available at its budget website.

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Lack of financial oversight is an understatement, the SC had an unqualified finance manager in Brennan with no financial education or background, they made their biggest mistake when they hired him and then ignored all the signs when he screwed up in the past (actually they promoted him), he got them in the end!

I guess they just don't want us to know where the money came from for the IPad pilot program or all the equipment needed to go "paperless".....just sayin...

After looking at the link jeremywk posted (Worc.school budget) The WRSD should be totally ashamed of the the "budget documents" that they put forth. If the students did thier assignments with the same quality level they would surely score an F grade. The WRSD sees fit to post the towns overall budgets complete with reserves clearly identified but fail to also overlay that with the portion that the school district consumes. Before any complaints from the WRSD and the SC about any town official can be taken seriously they need to look at thier own website and antics and clean that act up. "Inadequacy of Local Contributions" Really... Come on...

When discussing his continued refusal to give our Board of Selectmen and the taxpayers a line item copy of his budget Duncan Leith was quoted as saying: “It’s something I don’t find necessary for them to have.” We give them a roughly $90 Million annual budget and Duncan Leith doesn’t “find it necessary” for the towns to have a line item copy of his budget to see how they are spending our tax dollars. What’s wrong with this picture? What are they hiding this time?

This ‘let them eat cake’ refusal to release a line item copy of their budget is why they continue to make multi-million dollar mistakes with our tax dollars.

During the tenure of Duncan Leith, Margaret Watson and Cindy Bazinet on the school committee the taxpayers have suffered through the outrageous spending habits (meals, meals and more meals) of ex-superintendent Al Tutela, the 13 month Inspector General’s investigation that found $139,000 in wasteful spending (and the SC claimed ‘they didn’t know’), the high school construction project that ran tens of millions of dollars over budget plus approximately $6.4 Million more they lost in lawsuits, their $383,645 budget mistake late last year, their $1.2 Million overspending budget mistake, their $1.5 Million employee benefits mistake (more than $3 Million in mistakes with our tax dollars in less than 9 months), the resignation then firing of Peter Brennan, the resignation then retirement of superintendent Tom Pandiscio etc. etc. etc.

It is time for Duncan Leith, Margaret Watson and Cindy Bazinet to finally admit their continued failures to properly manage our tax dollars. It is time for Duncan Leith, Margaret Watson and Cindy Bazinet to resign and quickly but quietly follow Peter Brennan and Tom Pandiscio out the door.

This debate is ludicrous. The very people who have forced the district into a "paperless" mentality bemoan the cost of printing the "7,000 page ledger" and neglect to offer the cost of a few blank discs and maybe an hour of an IT guys time to "burn" a few copies. I'll be generous in suggesting that it would not cost more than $200.00 at the very most. If you need blank discs let me know I have plenty. Now cut the BS.

The budget information is contained in the 21 pages (not 12) pages of the
Annual Report. This report is available online. The thousands of pages requested do not contain the
budget. These contain a chronological listing of all the transactions made
during the fiscal year, just like the running register you make of your checks
whenever you write a check.

Perhaps if we could get an idea of what Mr. Ferguson and others are
trying to research, we could help by responding to their questions and
providing information on what they are looking for. The town and
the District do not need to incur all these costs for copying
unnecessarily.

Margaret Watson

Lets start here as this is a nicely laid out and a good example and provides enough info that the tax payer then can dig deeper if needed.

http://cfo.worcesterschools.org/modules/locker/files/get_group_file.phtml?gid=943960&fid=17332251&sessionid=

The issue here is not the budget or the documents behind it. Lane was raising the question of how we allow our officials to conduct themselves when representing us. To have a temper tantrum in a regional meeting and insult another elected official is uncalled for, regardles off what the issue at hand is, and should be condemned by the other members of the BOS.

http://www.hctv11.com/watch.html I just watched this meeting. Mr. Ferguson barely raised his voice. I think I am watching the wrong meeting perhaps?

"It was even more disturbing because the uncalled for and arrogant attack was on an elected official of this town who was appearing at the meeting on the invitation of the board," Lane said."

As much as I can appreciate selective fabricated outrage, I have to point out Mr. Lane's failure to speak publicly against his protege's disgusting behavior this past summer. I believe the superintendent met the "uncalled for and arrogant attack .. on an elected official" threshold that Mr. Lane finds most disturbing.

It's about time someone asked for detailed information on WRSD budgets.

Fellow Holdenites, have you ever seen how the City of Worcester posts all employees salaries including wages, OT ... Why is it wrong to know where our tax dollar are going? I have children in the district schools and I would still like to know in detail how my dollars are being spent. The district demands funding but wont be clear on how they line item budget or spend. They love to compare themselves to Westboro for the academic achievements. Westboro doesnt own the school buildings the school district does. When WRSD compares themselves to other districts in how little they spent, does WRSD include the portion of building costs that the towns incur? Maybe they do make a true comparison of educational dollars spent? It cant hurt to have that level of information. As for the copy costs, maybe WRSD administration should email Staples and have their Copy Center give a quote to copy/scan the documents.

Recently the plow contract was given to an out of town contractor. Verbal contract, competitor prices given out? Hopefully that works out well but the process doesnt sound like any Bid I've ever heard of.

Our new Superintendent will need all the help he can get.

Mr. Lipka asked a relevant question last night. Who will be reading the 7,000 pages of documents that account for every pencil purchase? It will be Mark Ferguson's numbers man Ed Meyer, who will then step to every podium in town to say that this music teacher or that language teacher makes too much money. Then, of course, he will demand resignations from the school committee.

How lame that the more reasonable members of the select board could not even chastise Mr. Ferguson for his hysterical and unprofessional display two weeks ago. And then to allow a further speech from the podium by Mr. Ferguson as if he didn't already have the bully -- and I mean bully -- pulpit as a selectman.

Might as well turn the gavel over to him now. He's running the show.