Pembroke meeting to focus on $1 million school budget shortfall

  • Pembroke Academy as seen on April, 2, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • Superintendent Patty Sherman and Pembroke school board chair Thomas Serafin speak to each other during a board meeting at Three Rivers School in Pembroke on Tuesday, April 5, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

Monitor staff
Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Pembroke town officials are hoping the school district has an explanation after a sudden, $1 million shortfall appeared in the district’s revenues shortly before the tax rate was set.

The select board urged all residents to attend a special budget committee meeting Thursday to get answers firsthand.

“The Pembroke Board of Selectmen would like to call to your attention to some disturbing news. As we are taxpayers just like you, we will be receiving our tax bills with a very large increase in them. We want to explain to the best of our ability how this happened and where to go for answers,” they wrote Monday night.

Even the exact amount of the the shortfall is unclear. Town officials cited a $1.7 million figure in their statement to residents, but Patty Sherman, the co-superintendent for SAU 53, said the shortfall is actually $977,383.

“I think the original estimate was $1.6 million, but that was changed within a day and lowered to the new amount. Perhaps misinformation circulated, I can’t be sure of that,” Sherman wrote in an email.

Meanwhile, inclusive of warrant articles, town administrator David Jodoin said the shortfall is probably closer to $1.3 million.

A revenue sheet Sherman provided to the Monitor shows the district receiving about $737,000 less than expected in tuition payments, $220,000 less than projected in Medicaid reimbursements, and about $100,000 less than anticipated in state aid.

Select board chairwoman Tina Courtemanche said she expects answers from school officials at the meeting Thursday.

“I’m looking not only for an explanation of how it happened, but I’m looking for how they expect not to have it happen again,” said Courtemanche, who is also the select board’s representative on the budget committee.

“I’m encouraging all taxpayers to come to this meeting and listen,” she added.

The tax rate increase is relatively moderate – from $29 per $1,000 in assessed value last year to $29.76 this year – but tax bills will likely spike. That’s because properties were reassessed and went up nearly 10 percent town-wide.

According to calculations provided by the town, the rate would have gone from $29 to $32.45 if it weren’t for the re-evaluation.

It was already a tough budget year for Pembroke schools. Voters in March approved a $26 million spending plan that cut three teaching positions to save money. Another two were cut to right-size after a drop in enrollment.

The budget committee meeting Thursday is set for 6:30 p.m. at the Pembroke Academy auditorium.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)