Setting the FY’24 Budget Straight
The following is in response to Joe Siegel’s inquiries sent to me in regard to the FY’24 Budget Reductions put forth by Mr. Runey and voted on by the D-R School Committee:
When issues arise, it is how a superintendent responds to those issues. The matters that Mr. Runey alluded to that arose during my superintendency were addressed and rectified and have no bearing on the FY ‘24 budget.
First, I worked tirelessly with Mr. Baxter, our D-R business administrator and his predecessor starting in 2019 when it came to our attention that the business administrator hired before my tenure misinterpreted a change in the law in regard to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in which the W-2 forms to the IRS showed that we did in fact provide coverage to our employees. Due to this being a result of a change in the law and an oversight we were successful in getting the IRS to waive any fines pertaining to 2016 since the information on W-2’s were filed showing that the district did provide medical coverage to our employees. Due to the pandemic, the IRS put a hold on any further inquiries. The IRS also wanted to look at 2017 separate and distinct from 2016. Thus, we created a pathway for Mr. Runey to articulate to the IRS the same rationale we did to waive the 2016 fines since medical coverage was afforded to our staff. The D-R School District has paid no fines and any impact on the FY ‘24 budget in this regard is not applicable despite Mr. Runey’s assertions.
Second, Mr. Runey’s statement regarding Chapter 70 monies was misleading in that reports were filed and Chapter 70 monies were not held back. Again, not impactful on the FY ‘24 budget.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion about the roles BA, BP and DR play in our school district. We addressed the issue of declining enrollment by not reducing classes that students had to study at DRRHS but by highlighting the many opportunities that students have at DR to excel at attending post secondary pursuits and building programs. By doing this, we highlighted the role that DR plays as a choice for Dighton and Rehoboth families. There is now an opportunity to understand and build upon the role of DR, BP and BA.
Further, I made sure that the transition from my administration to Mr. Runey’s administration was a smooth one. He was afforded a fully funded budget for FY ‘23 and legal fees emanating from the two lawsuits from Rehoboth would be coming to an end. I spent time in May and June assuring that Mr. Runey’s administrative staff was intact, namely a new Asst. Supt., a new D-R Regional High School principal, a new principal at Beckwith Middle School, a new principal at Palmer River Elementary School, a new principal at Dighton Middle School and a new CTE Director.
Finally, Mr. Runey inherited a district with a very healthy amount of E & D (Free cash for both towns) for the school district as well as both municipalities. In a letter I sent out to the school district before my retirement I indicated that there was a considerable amount of resources that the school district and both municipalities could use to provide for a safer school environment. To this date Mr. Runey and the school committee has voted to cut those safety measures out of the budget for next year.
Moreover, I left DR in a place with all administrators hired, students not impacted by staff or program cuts and financially stable. It is up to Mr. Runey and the School Committee to look forward rather than looking back at places to blame for their actions.
Anthony C. Azar, Ed.D
Retired Superintendent of Schools (June 2022)
Dighton-Rehoboth Regional School District
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