Right to Know

When you get your tax bill, the school portion includes the salaries of all staff, from the superintendent down. The same with the town portion – town employees’ wages and benefits are part of what you struggle to pay twice a year.

So it was a bit shocking to hear that some members of the Timberlane/Hampstead School Administrative Unit (SAU) board, composed of the Timberlane School District and Hampstead School District boards, said they have no say in SAU salaries – it’s all up to the superintendent – and because of that, they don’t need to be given information on either salaries or the amount of merit pay given out in the budget.

That response was what was made to a request by Timberlane board member Donna Green of Sandown, who asked for specific salaries for SAU employees and merit pay information. Unfortunately, Green’s requests almost always fall on deaf ears, whether from the Timberlane or the SAU board. “No” is the automatic answer to just about anything she seeks. And while her continued questioning can get tedious, much of the information she wants is information she – and all taxpayers in the districts – should have.

Some board members saying they didn’t need to know salary information because salary decisions are within the purview of the superintendent, with the board having no say in the matter, doesn’t speak well for how that board is managing the finances of the district.

School boards should not micromanage their employee, the superintendent, and no one could charge the Timberlane/Hampstead SAU board with doing so. But not micromanaging and not knowing salary information are two different things.

While the board claimed who gets a merit raise is protected personnel information, the amount of merit raises given is surely not. Any and every public employee’s salary is public information, regardless of whether it includes merit pay, if that money is coming out of the taxpayers’ pockets. And that public information should be readily available, not requiring submission of a Right-to-Know request to get it.

Green asks a lot of questions and has something to say about almost every item on the agenda. That can be wearisome. But who gets paid what in the SAU is neither a frivolous nor a troublesome question. Green – and the rest of the districts’ taxpayers – have the right to know.

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