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May 26, 2020
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Must Inform the Public

Published Feb. 27, 2019

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At a recent meeting of the Tri-Board Working Committee (boards of Selectmen, Finance, and Education), Superintendent of Schools Tom Scarice presented a status of the committee’s work on developing options for the school configuration as the town adjusts to declining enrollment and aging school facilities. I later searched for that presentation to see where we stood against the baseline approved capital plan, but on the Board of Education (BOE) web page, where the Working Group’s minutes are kept, there was no record of the presentation. No minutes, no PowerPoint. The minutes of all previous meetings were so terse as to be useless: “Review Information Gathered from Past Meetings and Public Forums.” Nothing pertinent? No decisions made? No issues, no trends, no tradeoffs?

I did find the BOE’s Capital Improvement Plan Summary and noted the baseline plan includes $62 million in capital expenditures over the next five years.

The Board of Selectmen’s Annual Report shows a capital plan for a total of only $19 million over the next five years, of which only $1 million, not $62 million, is Education facilities, and that’s spread over years one through three. Then zeroes. I was told that’s what the BOE submitted as input to the report. Yes, the plan may be replaced once the final school plan is brought forth, but wouldn’t the $62 million baseline be the proper amount to publicize as opposed to a not-realistic $1 million?

I’m seriously concerned that the BOE and the Tri-Board Working Group, while not intending to be secretive, are not making the necessary effort to be transparent. Minutes for all meetings must reflect decisions made, positions taken, and votes (if any), and include presentations. They must inform the public about the baseline capital improvement plan and the options under discussion for the future. Transparency is not an option.

Dennis Crowe