WLC reports $300k budget shortfall

  • Superintendent Bryan Lane reports to the School Board on projected budget shortfalls.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/11/2019 5:58:25 PM

The Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District reported a more than $300,000 budget shortfall, mainly related to salaries and benefits, during its most recent School Board meeting.

The shortfall is caused mainly by changes in staff benefit plans, staff retirement packages, and unexpected special education expenses, Superintendent Bryan Lane told the board Tuesday. 

Lane said after the business office reported the projected shortfall to him, he reviewed the numbers, and concurred the budget wouldn’t be enough to meet current expenses. Even after reviewing areas of savings in the budget, the district would still be running in deficit by about $252,474, he said.

The majority of the overage is related to $145,000 in retirement awards, FICA and special education costs. A further $68,000 is related to benefits packages, from staff members who switched to more expensive plans this year. 

“There was no way to predict those issues,” Lane said.

However, Lane said there were also expenses which were left out of the budget – he could not account for how or why when pressed by the School Board. The expenses include a behavioral therapist position, and funding for an after school program in the library, as well as funding for kindergarten sign-up days.

The School Board did not take any votes Tuesday on how to address the problem, pending additional information which Lane said would be available within the week.

The district does have a special education capital reserve fund, which can be used in the event of unexpected special education costs. The fund currently contains about $90,000.

The state budget, which was vetoed earlier this summer, included additional education funding, which if passed when the legislature reconvenes, could also help fill the gap, Lane said.

Lane said the district’s budget was already quite “thin” and there was not an obvious source to pull from to cover the shortage. 

“A reduction of any kind is going to create a great deal of difficulty,” Lane said. 

Lane said in the meantime, all the district’s purchasing has been suspended. The district’s contractual obligations – salaries – will still be met, and any expenditures needed for student safety or education are being filled, he told the board.

Residents in the audience also expressed displeasure at the overages.

When Lane explained that traditionally, the district has used unexpended fund balance to pay for retirement awards, because retirements are generally not final prior to the budget season, Lyndeborough resident Adam Lavallee said there should be a way to at least estimate an amount in the budget based on prior years. 

“It seems a little ludicrious. I think you could accrue for potential retirements just based on statistics,” Lavallee said. 

Charlie Post, of Lyndeborough, a former member of the budget committee, said he was displeased with several aspects of the board’s fiscal management, including overages in last year’s budget and failing to account for known expenses in this year’s budget. 

“In my opinion, the financial position of the district is in freefall,” Post said. “I think you need to go through line by line and provide better oversight and strict oversight of spending. I don't know how you're going to make up these dollar amounts. It's fiscally irresponsible and the board is not being good stewards of the public's money.”

The School Board is scheduled to meet next on Sept. 24 at 6:30 p.m., in the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative Middle/High School media room. 

 

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


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