Board plans to return LGC refund to taxpayers

Pending lawsuits that may eventually require the district to kick back a portion of that refund are complicating the process

PETERBOROUGH — ConVal School Board members say they fully intend to use a refund of about $639,000 from the Local Government Center to reduce the tax rate for the district’s nine towns. They just need to determine exactly how to do that, given the fact that lawsuits are pending against the Local Government Center that could mean some of the refund might eventually have to be returned.

“I don’t have any more answers than I did two weeks ago,” ConVal Business Administrator Marian Alese said at Tuesday’s School Board meeting. “Some districts are holding back on doing anything with the money. If we hold it for too long, we won’t be able to use it to reduce taxes for 2013.”

The School District received a check from the Local Government Center, a refund on premiums the district paid for health insurance in 2011, earlier this month.

According to Alese, the district is currently planning to list $695,823 in unexpended money on the forms used by the Department of Revenue Administration to set the tax rates, which will in effect return the money to taxpayers. That amount is mostly due to savings achieved when health insurance rates came in less than budgeted. Alese said the district always budgets for the maximum guaranteed rate, and this year’s eventual rates were lower than the maximum.

The additional $639,000 could be listed as revenue on DRA forms, resulting in additional return to taxpayers. Alese said a decision will need to be made soon if the School Board wants to do that.

Board member Myron Steere of Greenfield made a motion to return the money to the towns, with the understanding that if the lawsuits eventually lead to the district being required to return money, the towns would be responsible for reimbursing the district through their regular payments.

“In theory, that makes sense, but how can we saddle the towns with that responsibility?” said Francestown board member Stewart Brock.

Board member Jon Ingram of Peterborough said it was premature to make a decision and the board should have conversations with Select Board members from the district’s towns.

After some discussion, the board tabled Steere’s motion. Board members agreed to talk to members of the Selectmen’s Advisory Committee about the issue at the next SAC meeting on Oct. 10.

At earlier meetings, board members had discussed other options for using the refund, such as using it toward a project such as parking lot improvements at the high school or phasing a return to taxpayers over more than one year. But they had received written and verbal feedback from many town officials and district residents urging them to return the refund money to taxpayers immediately.

Board member Rich Cahoon of Antrim said “It sounds to me like we’re talking about ways to return this money now.”

None of the board members disagreed.

Chair Butch Estey said that after getting input from the SAC, the board will have a public hearing to discuss how the refund will be handled before taking a vote on how to proceed.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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