Board member asks superintendent to take pay cut

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published June 20, 2013

WARREN — The June 19 Warren Consolidated Schools Board of Education meeting turned into a debate when Board Trustee Ben Lazarus asked Superintendent Robert Livernois to take a 30 percent pay cut.

“It starts at the top,” said Lazarus, who began his first term on the board in January. “We need to (spend) less money on administrator fat cats and more on educating our kids. I think it would show that everyone from the top down is committed to this district for the long run. ”

The discussion came just after the district’s Chief Financial Officer Robert Carlesso presented the general fund budget for the 2013-2014 school year. The budget passed 6-1 with Lazarus voting against the measure.

Next year’s revenues are projected at $163,058,000 with expenditures projected at $168,658.000, leaving the district with a $5.6 million shortfall. School officials will use fund equity to make up the difference.

“We are going down to 1.2 percent fund equity. That is unacceptable,” said Lazarus, a 2008 Warren Mott High School graduate. “We are not going to have money down the road. I refuse to burden our students and teachers by cutting programs. I think (the budget is) over-bloated. It doesn’t trim the fat.”

“What fat are we going to trim?” Board President Brian White asked.

“We were given a budget. We weren’t involved in the numbers,” Lazarus said.

“That’s why we give it to you two weeks early,” Livernois said, adding he won’t take the pay cut.

A couple board members suggested getting together to further discuss the district’s financial woes.

“Taking and attacking the superintendent is not the way to go about this,” Board Secretary Susan Jozwik said.

Livernois said his annual salary is $181,000. He also receives a 4 percent stipend for holding a board-required doctorate degree, which bumps his yearly pay up to $188,240. The superintendent also receives a $4,000 board paid annuity benefit.  He did not respond when asked in an email about a benefits package.

“No administrator should make that much money,” Lazarus said.

“I have received no new money in five years since I have been here,” Livernois said. “On several occasions I’ve given money back. In 2010 it became clear to me that was the beginning of the end. I voluntarily began paying for my health care.”

Livernois told Lazarus that “you can take my whole salary,” it wouldn’t change anything.

“It isn’t about me,” the superintendent said. “It’s about the state and what they are doing to public education. If I take a 30 percent pay cut do you expect every other employee to take a pay cut? The state is not going to give us any more money.”

“There’s nothing personal about this. I’m just looking at numbers,” said Lazarus, adding he’s worried about what’s to come including the thought of closing schools, employee layoffs and privatization. “If teachers and support staff are making less money we should expect the same from the superintendent.”

Lazarus said he did not expect Livernois to take the cut, but said, “It would be very honorable if he did. Everyone has made sacrifices. It’s about time you do the same.”

“I’m the one that started that lead,” Livernois said. “I work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Lazarus feels school officials are procrastinating with the budget and that will catch up with the district next year.

“I want to bring a different perspective to the table that can challenge the status quo,” Lazarus said.