A few weeks ago in this space, I chronicled a dispute between the School Committee and the Finance Committee four decades ago in 1983. Long story short, the School Committee opted to ignore FinCom’s budget recommendation, instead lobbying Town Meeting to restore the budget to its original sum of $8.7 million. That action prompted criticism from the then-chair of FinCom, James Hourihan, who the School Committee alleged launched “an unjust and misleading attack against them and the superintendent of schools.”
Despite the spat, the Board of Selectmen opted to reappoint Hourihan to FinCom.
That brings us to June 1983 when, in the aftermath of the budget dispute, the School Committee passed a resolution calling on Hourihan to apologize for remarks committee members deemed misleading. But, Hourihan “flatly declined” to apologize, calling the resolution “nothing more than a childish temper tantrum.” The committee amended their motion, asking that the Selectmen apologize on behalf of the FinCom chairman.
That left the ball squarely in the Selectmen’s court — putting the board in the uncomfortable position of being an intermediary between the School Committee and Finance Committee.
The Selectmen ultimately opted to take no action on Hourihan’s remarks, citing a need to study a report on the issue and the absence of FinCom members from the meeting. They essentially kicked the can down the road, putting off further discussion to the end of the month.
The aforementioned report called for better understanding and cooperation between the two committees and the board, and listed recommendations for improving relationships. It also listed some of the alleged inaccuracies put forward by FinCom with regards to the school budget.
Superintendent James Kent, in one of several recommendations to prevent a recurrence of the Town Meeting episode, suggested the board hold joint meetings between the three groups, ask the FinCom to make written reports on budget information prior to or on the night of Town Meeting, and come up with better ways to find information on receipts and expenditures on state and federal aid.