To the Editor:
“We don’t know where the money is.”
So stated Hamilton Selectman Jennifer Scuteri during a Operational Audit Committee on Feb. 9. Her answer was in response to a question posed by George LaMontagne about a that said that only about $200,000 out of yearly budget of approximately $600,000 for maintenance was actually spent on maintenance...for years. Mr. LaMontagne simply wanted to know what happened to the remaining $400,000 per year.
This does not seem to be an unreasonable request considering that over a period of years we are talking about more than $1 million.
Other comments from that meeting regarding the question of unaccountable funds from the maintenance budget were:
Molly Martins (Wenham Selectman): "It may be that the information does not exist in a format that's discernible."
Jennifer Scuteri: "I think everybody is just acknowledging that at best we know that $200k was spent. Um, there's no good record keeping. We don't know where the rest of the money went. And going forward, I think there's going to be more transparency."
Roger Kuebel (Wenham Finance Committee) (to Mr. LaMontagne): "Are you concerned that there was fraud?"
George LaMontagne: "I can't answer that Roger. We don't know."
Molly Martins: "The coulda, shoulda, would haves...and we know they weren't doing it well. That became evident. I think most people knew it, and it became documented in the report. That confirmed what many people believed."
Jennifer Scuteri: "I feel a little bit like it's just an acknowledgment that there was bad accounting and we don't know where the money is...There's no way she (we) can track it...it's not by school. It's not by what was done."
Does anyone else other than George LaMontagne want to know what happened to that missing (yearly) $300,000 to $400,000?
While the new school administration has thus far proven to be open, caring, transparent and competent, it would appear the question of the missing funds is something the audit committee would rather forget about and trust that it will not happen again. After all, they imply, what good will it do to know where the money went? We need to move forward, they suggest, and not dwell on the past.
To that, I say "BULL PUCKY."
Over the past 13 years, because of ten Proposition 2-1/2 overrides for the schools, the taxpayers in Hamilton and Wenham have cumulatively paid more than $40 million (in override costs only) to the HWRSD. As most of you know, the overrides became part of the tax levy so taxpayers are burdened with those costs again and again, each and every year. And now certain officials are hoping you will simply forget about a measly $1 million plus or so and "look forward, not back."
You know, as in...Sweep It Under The Rug.
The taxpayers of Hamilton and Wenham deserve more. They . They deserve an answer to Mr. LaMontagne's question. Only then can Roger Kuebel's question be answered. Only then can they be assured that it will not happen again. Only then will those responsible for what appears to have been excessive and abusive spending, and deviations from accepted practices, be held accountable. That's what the taxpayers expect and deserve.
Perhaps James Thurber said it best:
"Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness."
North Street, Hamilton