What to do with LGC refund
I attended my very first ConVal School District board meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 3. I was dismayed that I was the only member of the public audience who stayed for the entire 4½ hour meeting (the rest of the attending public having left around 8:45 p.m., during a break). My second board meeting was last night, and more public was in attendance for this meeting.
I was particularly interested in the agenda item about the LGC refund (see my Viewpoint article in the Aug. 8 edition of the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript). I was very frustrated at the lack of details and action taken on this issue at the first meeting. Marian Alese, ConVal’s business administrator, announced that the district had received the LGC refund (approximately $725,000 according to the article on page 3 of the Ledger Transcript Sept. 5 edition, written by Dave Anderson). This refund was distributed by the LGC on Aug. 27, and according to Alese, this money had been deposited in a ConVal School District bank account, pending a decision by the Board as to what to do with it.
The discussion on this issue was much livelier last night. However, what I noted was that instead of focusing on facts, what is the narrow scope of their mission as a board, and what is the “right” thing to do, the board instead wrung its collective hands, worrying about the LGC appeal in the NH Supreme Court (no hearing has been schedule as of the end of October). They worry that if the LGC wins its appeal, the school district would have to return the refunded monies, and if they had already returned these funds to the taxpayers, then they would have to raise the money and the taxpayers may not vote to approve this. They even worried about what if this town accepts the refund, but this one didn’t, etc...Not one board member asked what if the LGC lost its appeal.
If, if, if ....
I spoke with Jeane Samme of the NH Department of Revenue today to clarify some statements made at the meeting last night. Bottom line, if the board is concerned about needing to return the refund in the event that the LGC wins its NH Supreme Court appeal, then they can keep the money in a “school revenue account” and not “use” it for anything else, ever, until the lawsuit is finally settled. Remember, this refund reflects insurance premium overcharges by the LGC that ConVal passed on to school district employees (by increasing their share of insurance premiums taken out of their paychecks) and taxpayers (by increasing their district school tax rate).
This year‘s annual audit is being conducted by the CPA firm of Plodzick and Sanderson, PA in Concord, and is due by Oct. 31. I contacted the firm, however they would only talk with a current district employee or board member. One of the larger refunds went to SAU 16 (Exeter area school district), and part of the discussion at their August board meeting was included in their minutes: “…the letter that had been received from the district auditors, clearly said that the money could not be ‘used to reduce current year expenditures.’”
Again, according to Anderson’s article, the ConVal School District at least expects to distribute approximately $86,000 to “retired employees of the district who contributed toward their health insurance.” So some of the people who overpaid will get refunds, but others in the same situation (i.e. current employees who also contributed toward their health insurance premiums; and the taxpayers who paid the balance of these same premiums) won’t? Isn’t this discrimination?
The board decided to table further discussion, pending a joint meeting with the Board and the SAC. The possibility of a public meeting following this meeting was next.
What I most dislike about any government agency or elected official/board nowadays, is their tendency to infantilize the citizenry and parentify their elected roles. I, for one, did not elect them to tell me what to do, but rather they were elected to represent me in the larger community.
My advice to the ConVal Regional School District Board is to stop micromanaging.
1. You have the refund in a bank account. These monies do not belong to the district, but rather to the districts’ employees and taxpayers.
2. Disburse the monies to the employees and towns as per their appropriate portion of the refund.
3. Let each town and their citizenry decide what they want to do with their own refund. And if the LGC wins its appeal, then the taxpayers will need to raise the appropriate sum to repay them in the future.
4. Go about your business of managing the school district, including the development of next year’s budget and subsequent tax rate. In doing so, make sure your line item about LGC insurance premiums are current and accurate and not the overinflated ones that have been used in past budgets.
I ask each and every taxpayer in this school district to contact their local school board member, and urge them to remember their fundamental fiduciary responsibilities. I don’t think the reader will be surprised when I reiterate that the $725,000 LGC refund is rightfully the ConVal School District’s employees’ and taxpayers’ money, and as such, should be refunded to them directly and without further delay.
Teresa M. Cadorette is a resident of Peterborough.