Dunbarton finds extra $1M in school funding due to Goffstown reporting error

  • Dunbarton Elementary School.

Monitor staff
Published: 5/21/2018 1:25:40 PM

It turns out Dunbarton taxpayers gave the school district $1 million it never spent, according to a school audit.

The recently concluded audit found about $1. 06 million more in Dunbarton’s fund balance than previously believed, according to a statement from the school district.

School Administrative Unit 19, which includes New Boston and Goffstown, reported in December that it had made errors in how it reported its end-of-year fund balances for several years dating back to 2007, when Dunbarton was still part of the district. The errors resulted in money being retained in the schools’ general fund and not being used to reduce the tax rate.

The report led to the discovery of $9.1 million retained in Goffstown’s fund balance and $1.1 million in New Boston’s fund balance. The district’s business administrator, Raymond Labore, resigned after the review, according to an SAU 19 press release.

Dunbarton’s $1 million in excess money was discovered through an independent audit conducted by Plodzik and Sanderson, according to Dunbarton school officials. Dunbarton’s records were not included in the SAU 19 review.

Now residents will have a chance to weigh in on how the extra money – about 15 percent of the district’s $6.9 million operating budget – should be used. A public forum has been scheduled for 6 p.m. June 12 at the Dunbarton Elementary School.

SAU 67 business administrator Duane Ford said the fund balance has triggered discussion about what to do next, but two main options have floated to the top: let the money lapse into the general fund – resulting in lower taxes when the rate is set in October – or put the money in a capital reserve fund.

Ford said he likes the latter idea.

“It would make a lot of sense, and then we could use it over time,” he said. “It would assist with the budget from year to year.”

The money would be about half of what the school is expecting to spend to renovate DES. Voters approved a $2.2 million facilities project in March that will add three new classrooms and refurbish two existing classrooms into small instructional spaces, for a total of one new classroom.

It will also fix the school’s HVAC system, redesign the front office area, repair parts of the building’s exterior and upgrade the school’s security system. Construction on that project is slated to begin in June.

Ford said keeping the money in a capital reserve fund would provide restrictions on how it could be used and that any appropriation would have to be approved by taxpayers.

Depending on voter input, two things could happen.

If the money is allowed to lapse, it will be available to offset the tax rate when its set in October.

If a district meeting is called for, Dunbarton will have to file a petition with Merrimack County Superior Court to schedule a special school district meeting in September.

That meeting would have to take place before the district sends its final financial reviews to the Department of Revenue Services, which are due in September before the tax rate is set in October. Dunbarton can request an extension on sending that information.

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