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My Turn: Franklin council must not take over school district finances

Recently, the Franklin City Council had difficulty balancing its finances. Now the council wants to take over the school district funds.

Over the past five years, the city has taken approximately $850,000 from the school district in year-end fund balances. This means that the school district handled its budget so well that there was a surplus. Yet when asked, not one of the city councilors can tell us what that money was used for.

In 2012, Franklin taxes gave $11.02 per $1,000 to the city in appropriations while the school received $5.69 per $1,000. Franklin has the lowest tax rate for school appropriations in the state. From 2005 to 2012, school appropriations have decreased by $348,703; the city had increased its share by $1,691,808.

On Monday at 6 p.m. there will be a finance meeting at Franklin City Hall. The city called this a joint finance meeting but failed to collaborate with the school board finance committee to see if this was an agreeable date. At this meeting the Franklin City Council will consider taking over the school district finances – which is prohibited by the city charter.

Please attend this meeting to speak against this action. Call your city councilors and tell them “No.” Since Superintendent Maureen Ward and Business Administrator Michael O’Neil came to Franklin, their exemplary work to improve education and make our finances transparent are commendable. The city should be so transparent. The city cannot balance its books, and the school can. One of the main legal responsibilities of the school board is to oversee the school district finances and approve the budget. Now the city wants to take that responsibility away and control all tax dollars within the city.

Members of the city council continue to bully and disrespect elected school board members and school administration. It is time this ends. The school board members are elected officials, elected by the people of Franklin, just like the city council. As elected officials, these two entities need to work together to improve our community. Education excellence is the economic engine for Franklin.

The city council’s continued interference, sabotage and disrespect to the elected school board members restricts the board’s effort to improve education.

(Kathleen Russo is chairwoman of the
SAU 18 board, representing Franklin and Hill.)

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