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April 19. 2013 4:46AM

Berlin City Council accepts education official's resignation

BERLIN - Nathan Morin's resignation from the Berlin Board of Education was accepted with regret Monday by the Berlin City Council.

Mayor Paul Grenier said that though they often disagreed, Morin brought a different perspective to the board, and that government works best with different voices.

Morin objected to the board's decision to rework the proposed fiscal year 2014 budget numbers after the board's operating budget was too high for the council.

At the April 8 Berlin City Council meeting, school officials presented a budget pared down from the one presented to the council in March.

The board's proposed operating budget is $17,306,815, an increase of $575,691 over the fiscal year 2013 budget. In March, the board presented a budget of $17,389,644.

Morin resigned to protest the way board chair Nicole Plourde has dealt with the budget process, objecting to the board negotiating with the mayor and council after the board had already held a public hearing and voted on its proposed budget.

"To suggest that a discussion about our responsibility to local taxpayers to be good stewards did not occur before we voted on the proposed budget is simply unconscionable," Morin said. "It is the responsibility of the board to demonstrate why the proposed budget is the right investment. The school board has demonstrated its commitment to fiscal responsibility by returning a surplus to the city to use for tax relief."

Bryan Lamirande, SAU 3 business administrator, said Thursday, "We want to work cooperatively with the city."

He said the city council keeps the best interests of the city and schools in mind as the mayor and council deal with a tough economic situation and high property taxes.

"You need to talk," he added. "We still need more money, but we need to be flexible."

City and school officials are hoping that the legislature will restore state education aid for next year to this year's levels. For fiscal year 2013, Berlin's aid is $10,756,851. for fiscal year 2014, it's reduced to $10,383,137.

Grenier said that if the $373,684 drop in state education aid is restored by the legislature, then the school system would get the lion's share of the funds.

Morin has also taken issue with the council's no vote on a new contract for custodians and bus drivers.

"The school board and the Local 1444 have negotiated in good faith. To bully this group into accepting items or proposals they do not want just to satisfy the mayor and council's political agenda is unethical," Morin said.

"The mayor and council's conduct is starting to have an extremely negative impact on employee morale. It is my hope that both the school district and the Local 1444 will consult legal counsel on what can be legally done to force the council into accepting the proposed contract. There is no reason for either the school board or the Local 1444 to go back to the bargaining table at this point."



syoungknox@newstote.com


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