MILL HALL - A Keystone Central School District committee meeting was disrupted by a shouting match between a local resident and board members - and by the attempt of a second resident to shut down the session altogether.
Almost lost in the debate was the very real crisis the board faces because of a budget shortfall - and truly lost was any attempt to reach a consensus Monday evening.
Local citizen and self-styled taxpayer advocate Larry Liguori of Beech Creek told the board members they were paying teachers too much.
He also said the board is increasing taxes to the point where people were being forced to cut their cable television services, and choose between food and taxes.
In a rambling, loud and vocal attack on school board decisions, past and proposed, Liguori accused the board of acting against the best interest of the taxpaying public.
When board member Tom Shafer noted Liguori had only appeared at meetings for about six months, and suggested he might have missed some of the hard budget decisions of recent years, Liguori took offense.
"You came in late to this situation and attached yourself to the caboose," Shafer said.
"Don't get on your high horse, pal," Liguori replied. "You've had the boot on the taxpayer's necks for too long. You have some of the highest paid teachers in the state, and the teachers are well represented by this board."
Curriculum Director Terry Murty's claim that "many sacrifices" have already been made for the sake of budget considerations, and future cuts would mean the end of some educational programs, fell on deaf ears.
When Liguori asked if the teachers were being overcompensated, it was board member James Knauff who replied with a firm "No I don't," noting all the instructors are professionals with four, six, eight or 10 years of higher education under their belt.
"You want us to educate your kids, but you don't want to spend any money to do it," Finance Committee Chairman Jeff Snyder commented.
The argument quickly devolved into a shouting match in which Knauff repeatedly told Liguori to sit down and allow him to answer the question, and Liguori in equal measure refused and spoke over Knauff's comments.
After sparking several emotional responses from the board, Liguori finally relinquished center stage, and returned to his seat next to the other citizens advocate, Timothy Havener, who has advocated locally for free speech, open meetings, gun rights and decriminalization of drugs.
It was Havener who tried to shut down the meeting.
He approached the board at the beginning of the session and suggested they were violating the state's open meetings law and should immediately call an end to all activities.
The place, date and time of the meeting had been properly advertised in a public notice, and was mentioned in a recent news article. But, Havener said another requirement is that notice be placed on prominent display at the agency's place of business. He said he took a picture at the KCSD Administration Building just that day, and saw no notice on display.
"A notification posted on a door is quite trivial when we're in the middle of a budget crisis," Shafer said.
Whether Havener himself had any difficulty discovering where and when the meeting was being held was not discussed.
After much debate over the regulations governing legislative meetings, decision-making meetings, work sessions and committee meetings designed to collect information, Snyder said he respectfully disagreed with Havener's position. As a nod to Havener's objections, however, the board found itself unable to provide Business Manager Kim VanGorder with any indication of which direction it might move among five budget options she presented.
"This is ridiculous," VanGorder said. "How am I supposed to come up with a recommendation? Should I present five different budgets to the board on the 21st?"
Well... Yes, apparently.
The decision to forgo a consensus came after board member Jerry Swope said he'd refuse to support any consensus taking as an apparent violation of the regulations governing work sessions and committee meetings.