Ex-Hannibal Board President Claims Board Hid Money for Raises in Proposed Budget; Official: ‘Absolutely Not!’

The former President of Hannibal’s Board of Education claims that board members deliberately deceived taxpayers by claiming that no salary increases had been built into the proposed 2011-12 budget when money for raises had been hidden in other accounts.

District officials flatly denied the claim.

Matt Henderson made his claim during the public comment section of Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting. (See the video of his comment below.)

Henderson recently quit the board, saying that he could not abide some of the things that were happening.

At issue is the board’s initial order to Superintendent Mike DiFabio and business official Nancy Henner to budget for no salary increases in the 2011-12 budget proposal. At the time, the district was negotiating with its unions but had not come to agreements.

Henderson charges that money for possible raises was hidden on other lines of the proposed budget, just in case.

“I know for a fact that 2% was put aside in that budget and it was discussed by the board and then we told the community it was built on a zero,” Henderson said. The intent was to prevent the school’s unions from seeing that money was set aside for raises for next year, to keep the pressure on the unions for zero-increase contracts.

“It is absolutely not true,” said board member Mike LaFurney, who was then shushed by board President Fred Patane, saying the board would follow its rules about not responding to public comments except by letter.

Henderson alleged that board members discussed the alleged extra money. He said one member said that they couldn’t tell the public about the money because it would make the board look like it didn’t know what it was doing.

He challenged board members to say his allegations were not true.

“I had to get that off my chest,” he concluded. “I guess I apologize to the community for letting that happen.”

After the meeting, DiFabio, Henner and Patane all denied Henderson’s charges.

“The only statement I will make is right at the beginning of the budget process, we were directed by the Board of Education to do a zero percent salary increase for every employee and that’s what Nancy did,” said DiFabio. Did the board direct him and Henner to put money into other budget lines to cover potential salary increases? “Absolutely not,” he said.

“This budget hasn’t been built any different than any other budget,” said Patane, except for the direction to budget for no salary increases.

Henner confirmed Henderson’s claim that the zero-increase contracts that have been tentatively agreed upon will leave the proposed budget with a surplus, but not because of the contracts.

Said Patane: “Nancy and her budgeting budgeted for the health insurance, but it finally came in lower. I was not privy to this. Matt knew about this and to the best of my knowledge, didn’t think we should change the figures on this (in the proposed budget).

“We did talk about it and said leave it there because we have no idea where fuel’s going, we have no idea where anything’s going. We’re not hiding it from them. It’s there and it’s not being stolen. It’s the district’s money that will be spent or used in the best way we can.”

Henner said that it is routine practice to make sure there is some cushion in the budget to handle unplanned changes. “Is there money in the budget for emergencies? There absolutely is. There has to be. You can’t set up the district, you can’t set up the taxpayers for failure,” she said.

Patane said that he does the same thing in his farming business and added that if he ever discovered that a budget was being built without some cushion for unforeseen problems, he’d try to fire the business official.

Can’t see the video? Find it here: http://youtu.be/zdDkEViDv8s

And here are the audio files of interviews with district officials on Henderson’s allegation.

Superintendent Mike DiFabio:

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Board of Education President Fred Patane and business official Nancy Henner:

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