Burlington School Board Opts for Financial Consultant Rather Than City's Assistance | Off Message

Burlington School Board Opts for Financial Consultant Rather Than City's Assistance


The Burlington school board won’t be taking Mayor Miro Weinberger up on his offer of dispatching Bob Rusten, the city’s chief administrative officer, to patch up the district’s finances.

Instead, the finance committee has approved a motion to ink a contract with a financial consultant — Ed Gomeau, according to one its members, Scot Shumksi. Gomeau has previously served as the New Haven Public Schools’ finance director in Connecticut, and as business manager for the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union in Vermont, according to the Addison Independent.

The school board is also looking for a permanent finance director to replace David Larcombe, who is resigning on June 30. It recently appointed an acting superintendent to oversee the schools while it searches for a replacement for Jeanne Collins, who is also stepping down at the end of the month. 

Weinberger made his offer on April 28, after the public learned that serious budgeting problems had led to the district’s repeat deficits. The City Council voted 12-1 in favor of the arrangement. 
In an earlier story, Seven Days reported that the school board had also agreed to the arrangement. In fact, the board voted unanimously only to “move forward with discussions” about the offer, according to a press release issued May 1. 

The school board created an ad hoc committee to participate in those discussions with city officials. At the time, some board members said they were uncomfortable ceding financial control to the city. Others, including board chair, Patrick Halladay, sounded more optimistic about the possibility.

According to board’s finance chair, Miriam Stoll, the conversations ended in “a mutual determination that [the Mayor's] original offer was not going to be the best thing for the district.” Asked if the committee has specific reservations about the arrangement, Stoll would only say that they decided, “the best thing for the district was to look more broadly at the options.”

“I thought it made sense,” Weinberger said in an interview Friday, but, he emphasized there were no hard feelings. “We had a number of very cordial and productive meetings,” he recalled. “Clearly it was always the independently- elected board’s decision.”

From the outset, the mayor made it clear that the school district would have to pick up the tab if the arrangement were to cost the city money — a likely prospect given that someone would need to fill in for Rusten at City Hall. Weinberger declined talk about why the board didn’t accept his offer. "I don't think the cost was a driving factor," he said.

Stoll declined to share information about the district's arrangement Gomeau, citing a non-finalized contract.

Shumski, who didn't participate in the discussion about Rusten, said he's convinced Gomeau is the man for the job.  "In Ed Gomeau, we have an established individual who has a history turning around districts and municipalities," he said.