A request from the Board of Education for the town to cover its roughly $45,000 deficit from the last fiscal year will just have to wait a little longer.
That’s because the Board of Selectmen, during its meeting Wednesday, voted to table the request until the school board hands over more information concerning its finances from the 2010-11 fiscal year.
First Selectman Mary Ann Drayton-Rogers said selectmen could revisit the issue at their next meeting in November as long as they are given the numbers it’s looking for.
“We’ve been hit pretty hard because of Board of Education deficits, and this (latest deficit) has to come from the town side of the budget,” she said. “And while I’d much rather see the deficit now at $45,000, as opposed to $250,000 (the original projected deficit), I’m not comfortable acting on this until we can follow what our auditor has recommended.“
The town auditor, according to Finance Director Jim Hliva, said the town’s books, which has records of actual money spent during the 2010-11 fiscal year, must be reconciled with the school board’s books. The town has its numbers in order, Hliva said, but the school board's figures that the town has seen shows a surplus and needs to be corrected. Hliva said the town needs to acquire several figures from the school board, including payroll information and capital improvements, in order to reconcile the books, per the auditor’s recommendation.
School board member Michael Macchio said the board will provide the town with that information.
The exact figure for the school board’s projected deficit now stands at $45,325, said school Business Manager Rosemary Hanson. That’s significantly less than the projected high of $250,000.
Hanson said the previous interim business manager, in November 2010, had projected the board would wind up with a $30,000 surplus at the end of the 2010-11 fiscal year. But a harsh winter saw the board spend $225,000 more than what it had budgeted for snow removal and heating oil costs. Macchio said snow removal alone created a $145,000 deficit, while oil usage led to an $80,000 deficit.
Macchio explained there was “no way” to have predicted the fury that Mother Nature unleashed last winter when the board was preparing its budget. The school board tried, but was denied, funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to recoup some of the costs.
To cut the deficit, a spending freeze on all “non-essential” spending was enacted for the entire district in January, Macchio said, which significantly cut it down. The school board also received money from its insurance carrier and found other savings, such as from eliminating two school days, which saved on costs such as that for bussing.
Now, for at least the second straight year, the school board needs a helping hand from the town to pay its bills. Hliva said there is approximately $51,000 left in the town’s contingency fund, which could cover the deficit.
However, until the board’s books are reconciled with that of the town’s, Drayton-Rogers said she wasn’t comfortable voting on the special appropriation during Wednesday’s meeting.
Once the selectmen do vote on the school board’s request, it will go to the Board of Finance for consideration.