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ConVal

Board seeks guidance on  LGC refund

District contemplates reducing taxes

PETERBOROUGH — The ConVal School District has received a check from the Local Government Center, a refund on premiums the district paid for health insurance in 2011. While the refund could possibly be used to reduce next year’s tax rate for the district’s towns, for now it is sitting in a bank account while school officials and board members wait for guidance from the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration.

According to ConVal Business Administrator Marian Alese, the full refund came to about $725,000. Some of that money will eventually be going to retired employees of the district who contributed toward their health insurance. The amount left for ConVal is about $639,000, Alese said on Wednesday.

At Tuesday’s ConVal School Board meeting, Board Chair Butch Estey of Peterborough noted that a lawsuit has been filed by towns that were once members of the Local Government Center but were not included in an order by the State’s Bureau of Securities Regulation as being eligible for a refund from the LGC surplus. A lawsuit has also been filed in the N.H. Supreme Court by the Local Government Center that challenges the Bureau of Securities Regulation order.

Estey suggested that the money not be spent, either by returning it to taxpayers when the next tax rates are calculated or for any projects, until the suits have been resolved.

“My recommendation is to wait until we hear about the court case,” Estey said. “In my opinion, we should not start using this money.”

At recent meetings, School Board members have discussed how to use the refund money. In July, they voted unanimously to take the refund as a check, rather than as a credit on future insurance payments. But they put off a decision on what to do with the money, although several board members said it should be treated as revenue when tax rates are calculated by the Revenue Administration. That would result in lower school taxes this year for residents of the ConVal towns. The School Board has received letters and emails from the Select Boards in Peterborough, Hancock, Temple and Sharon, urging the School Board to return the money to taxpayers.

According to Alese, a decision will have to be made in the next few weeks if the board wants to use the money to reduce tax rates. She said she is looking for input from the Revenue Administration on what options the district has, because it’s unlikely that lawsuits will be resolved soon. Revenue information and other data used to set the rates is due to the Revenue Administration early in October.

The consensus of board members was to follow Estey’s recommendation to hold the money in the bank for now . But board member Crista Salamy of Antrim said the board should continue the discussion of how to allocate the money, in order avoid being under the pressure of a deadline. Board member Jon Ingram of Peterborough agreed, saying the residents of the district are expecting the board to make a decision.

“It’s up to us to say this is what we’re looking at,” Ingram said.

Estey said the issue will be put on the agenda for the Sept. 17 meeting.

In other business Tuesday, board member Rich Cahoon of Antrim, who is serving on the newly formed District Study Committee made up of School Board and Select Board members, said the group had settled on a scope of three issues they wish to address. They plan to look at options for consolidation or reconfiguration of schools in the district, investigate possible efficiencies in district operations, and consider possible ways to encourage higher enrollment in the district. Cahoon said they specifically chose not to look into transportation issues, administrative staffing or the district budget.

At Cahoon’s request, the board unanimously approved the scope for the District Study Committee.

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

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