The Haverhill School committee voted 5 to 2 in favor of hiring a new school district business manager with a three year contract and a starting salary of $125,000 per year.
Brian O’Connell, most recently with the Killingly public school district, Danielson, Connecticut, was selected from among two candidates previously interviewed by the committee. Mayor James J. Fiorentini, committee chairman and Committeeman Joseph J. Bevilacqua were the dissenting votes. Under his new contract, O’Connell will be paid $125,000 a year the first two years and $130,000 the third year. Fiorentini, who favored keeping an outside auditor, said he opposed the contract’s wording and believed the position shouldn’t be filled at all, as the district “got a handle on the budget.”
“My concern was we’re giving this gentleman we don’t know anything about, really, a three-year contract and if we decide, for whatever reason, he’s not a good fit for the district – it doesn’t work out –we have to pay him the whole three years, $375,000. That’s an awful lot of money. I keep hearing, with each new administrator we hire, that it’s going to save us money. I’ve never seen it yet, but I sure hope all of you are right this time,” Fiorentini said.
Committee President Scott W. Wood Jr. pointed out, while not the case recently, the district is required by law to have a business manager.
“While I think the accounting firm has done a good job, their job is accounting, to make sure the budget balances. It didn’t balance last year but that’s another story. But I believe in sitting with negotiations with our employees, in talking to members of the general public, that even with this accounting firm, that there tends to be a lack of trust in the school budget process. I believe by putting an individual in place, I think, will bring some trust back,” Wood said.
Fiorentini also voted against an amendment approved by the rest of the committee to cover the increased salary with a $5,000 transfer from an account for its outside auditor, accounting firm Melanson and Heath. The motion was made by Committeeman Shaun P. Toohey.