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Editorial: Information Highway Detours

The problem with information is that it may be out there, but you sometimes really have to work hard to find it.

The Oyster Bay-East Norwich Board of Education members determined last year that they would vote on the salary increase of the Superintendent of Schools, the Assistant for Curriculum, and the Assistant for Business at the July 7, 2009 re-organization meeting – after the school budget vote had passed.

In January of 2009 the board approved retroactive salary increases which caused negative comments from the community.
OB-EN Board Member Donald Zoeller was very forthcoming in both calling this newspaper and talking about the vote. He said the vote was approved at the July 7 re-organizational meeting in executive session. The board had to know who would be elected as board president before they went into executive session to discuss several matters. When they came out of executive session and reconvened the meeting at 11:15 p.m. they handed out an “Addendum Agenda” with the salary raises listed that were voted on.

Mr. Zoeller said the raises were written up in the minutes of that meeting and were available for the public to read at the next board meeting. They were also available on-line on the school website OBEN He said they were aiming at transparency and thought they had achieved it but thought in the future the board should consider sending out more press releases.

Unfortunately this is the first time we have heard of the July raises. What we can say is that former OB-EN Superintendent George Chesterton had a five year contract that is re-newable every year – to remain a five year contract. The result was every year there was a discussion on a raise for the position.

All we can say is we will try to do better.
In her letter to the editor, Grace Searby also talks about the school surplus that she said is kept “secret.” This matter comes up yearly. The board explains that although the budget year ends on June 30, the bills are still coming in and they are not all paid, therefore the exact figure isn’t known until about August.

Last year Dr. Phyllis Harrington said that as the economy worsened she tightened the budget and didn’t spend all that they had intended which was part of what resulted in a surplus.

New York State has taken one decision out of our hands: it wants reserve funds to be established. That means that if there is a surplus – a fund balance, it can go into what is looked at as a stabilizing force for budgets.
We plan on attending the Tuesday, Feb. 2 board meeting and to follow the budget process. As Ms. Searby has said, “Please plan to attend the Budget Forum, when the preliminary budget will be reviewed, — Saturday, Feb. 6 at 9 a.m. in the Oyster Bay High School Library.”