Letter - Former school board chairman calls financial decisions 'shameful'

To the editor:

I served on the Trumbull Board of Education from 2005 to 2013, with six years on the Finance Subcommittee (four of those as its chair).

When I left in 2013, financial policies were meticulously followed. The budget document was accurate and clear. Transfers were reviewed in accordance with state statute; documentation was user friendly. Financials were explained in layman’s terms. Minutes were detailed so readers could understand what had been discussed. And the board stayed within the allocation approved by the town.

I was therefore shocked to read the recent operational review, which identifies significant and persistent procedural deficiencies. How did this happen?

A review of minutes of Finance Committee and board meetings shows that the problems highlighted in the report were due to imprudent, unsound decisions made by the school district beginning as early as 2014. Some of these decisions violated existing board policies and state statute.

Sadly, comments from school administrators appear to justify the poor financial practices documented in the report. Trumbull elected officials fund education at a level believed to balance the needs of the schools with residents’ ability to pay. Few districts, if any, receive 100 percent of the funds they request. Regardless, state law requires that a district operate within its budget. Using funding decisions to excuse overspending and poor oversight is shameful.

Board of Education leadership has committed to implementing the report’s recommendations, but concerns remain, as the 2021-22 proposed budget includes many inconsistencies when compared with current year spending.

It is long past time for the board to get its financial house in order. Only by doing so will the community be able to trust that the board is providing the necessary stewardship for the millions of dollars being invested in support of Trumbull’s children.

Lisa Labella, member (2005-13)

Trumbull Board of Education