Citizens For A Better Norwood

Friday, November 03, 2006

NCS financial news...

How a playground mat became a spending cap

An interesting exchange took place at the June ‘06 BOE meeting during an agenda item called “Board Announcements.” After Debi Gay announced that student performances were playing on cable access and Board President Rick Guy congratulated Brian at NCT for his Blue Chip cable award, Ken Miracle called Treasurer Rabe’s attention to a $42,500 expenditure the BOE had never voted on. Board President Rick Guy quickly suggested Mr. Miracle’s topic wasn’t exactly suitable as a Board Announcement and that a phone call would be more appropriate rather than ambushing Mr. Rabe. Mr. Miracle diplomatically persisted and then asked how the school district could purchase a $42,500 rubberized playground mat without first getting BOE approval.

Mr. Rabe explained the $42,500 playground mat for Allison Elementary was purchased without a BOE vote because a state statute doesn’t require a board vote for materials that aren’t attached to school buildings. Let’s go over that again. Mr. Rabe cited an Ohio state statute that stipulates boards of education don’t have to approve any purchases, regardless of their costs, that aren’t attached to buildings. (See? That wasn’t an ambush of Mr. Rabe. He had a ready answer. Besides, he’s the one who lawfully wrote the check.)

Okay, so no board vote required since it‘s not attached, but surely an expenditure that large would have to be put out for bid, right? No, wrong. The state statute doesn’t require sealed bids on unattached items. Mr. Rabe said they got 3 quotes, though, and chose the least expensive. And speaking of quotes, our favorite quote of the meeting was when Scott Faulkner looked squarely at the treasurer and said, “That’s a lot of money to throw at a playground just to make it look nice.” To add context, Mr. Faulkner said the wood chips the PTA donated for the playground had worked just fine and said he’d like to have known about the purchase in advance.

Now for the good news: at a recent BOE meeting, we think it was September, the BOE voted 3 to 2 that all purchases not attached to buildings must have BOE approval if they cost $15,000 or more. Guess who voted against this and why. Ken Miracle and Scott Faulkner tried but were unable to persuade the other 3 board members to make the starting figure needing approval a much lower figure of $5,000 because, as Mr. Miracle said on the record when he voted no, there are too many purchase orders between $5,000 - $15,000 that never get a BOE vote. (We bet there are.)

So, fellow Norwood taxpayers, that's how two new board members turned a mat into a cap, and we thank them.