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Jaffrey-Rindge School District

Board votes to return $211K to taxpayers, keep $150K

Proposal on the table to set up capital reserve funds

JAFFREY — The Jaffrey-Rindge School District will be returning $211,000 of unassigned funds back to the voters, after voting to retain $150,000 to use for possible emergencies that may arise over the course of the school year.

In March 2013, the district approved a warrant article that allows the district to retain up to 2.5 percent of the current fiscal year’s net assessment. Last year, the board retained $150,000, but did not spend any of it, so the excess was rolled into the current year’s unassigned funds at the end of the last fiscal year.

Including last year’s retained funds, the school district had approximately $360,000 in unassigned funds, Finance Manager Karen Gray informed the School Board at its meeting last week. For the coming year, the board had the option to retain up to $425,064, if those funds were available, for emergencies. Those emergencies can include a number of situations, including unexpected students moving into the district or unanticipated facilities needs, but must be approved by the Commissioner of the Department of Education before the district can call on the emergency fund.

After clarifying that the previous year’s retention was part of this year’s unexpended funds and would not be retained by the district, School Board Chair Daniel Whitney — who had surrendered his position as chair to Vice Chair Jeff Clark-Kevan in order to comment on the matter — said he would like to see the board retain the same amount this year, and no more. Clark-Kevan agreed that it was a reasonable cushion.

Resident Pat Martin asked the board if the funds could be used for weatherizing projects or energy audits for the schools. Clark-Kevan replied that the board had funds for energy audits planned at the schools, but the funds wouldn’t be sufficient to put most of the plans into place, so the board would likely address those changes with the voters. Whitney added that the funds were supposed to be for true emergencies, and shouldn’t be spent just to spend it.

“This isn’t a Mastercard,” he said. “It’s an emergency fund.”

School Board member Charlie Eicher added that energy updates were unlikely to meet the Commissioner of the Department of Education’s criteria for use of the emergency fund.

Eicher also said the board should consider creating capital reserves to use as a “rainy-day fund,” rather than relying on the fund balance. “We’re better off controlling our own destiny,” he said. “Can we do that this year? No. But we can look into it for next year.”

Clark-Kevan said that he would feel more comfortable with that plan if there were more padding in the budget. If there was a need to use the funds to take care of a operations or normal maintenance issue that might spring up, the budget could not accommodate those kinds of unexpected surprises, because it has been pared down to eliminate excess, he said.

The reserved fund balance might be enough to make emergency repairs, at least to carry the district over until it could go before the voters with a permanent solution, he said.

The board voted 4-1 to retain $150,000 for emergency purposes, with Eicher against. Should the fund not be needed, it will be returned to the unassigned fund balance at the end of the current fiscal year.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.

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