Town, School District Give Financial Review to Budget Committee

School District Business Administrator Peter Curro and Town Director of Finance and Administration Susan Hickey provided a Fiscal Year 13 financial review for the Budget Committee. “We are in the second week of our audits and they should be done by the end of next week,” Hickey told the committee at its Thursday, Aug. 8 meeting. Hickey said town revenues were under by $170,000, due to interest on investments being low and the suspension of impact fees.

“We had an under-expenditure of $470,000 approximately, so we should have $303,000 for the general fund for FY 13,” Hickey said. Hickey said police, town manager, public works, community development and library all came in under budget. The only overages were in the legal and fire departments. Committee member Tom Dalton asked if high legal fees could be anticipated for the coming year and Hickey said it was not anticipated.

Committee member Gary Vermillion asked how trusts were managed and Hickey said they were kept in a special fund apart from the general fund. On the school side, Curro said auditors were coming in Monday. “The total surplus, and this will change a little bit, is $1,034,000,” he said. “That is revenue above expectations of $252,000. That’s Catastrophic Aid and Medicaid, which are the two big ones. Catastrophic Aid we get from the state and we actually got more money than we were told, and Medicaid reimbursement is for special education services.”

Curro said on the expenditure side, the district was about $782,000 under budget. “Right now risk pools are regulated by the secretary of state,” he said. “They’ve changed how risk pools do their rates for health insurance, so we got a net of $300,000 reimbursement for the schools that we weren’t aware of until after the budget was set. So that’s a $300,000 credit. Another $300,000 or thereabouts is staff turnover, and then $100,000 was savings on utility money. Some of it is consumption, some of it is bidding on electricity.”

Committee member Dan Lekas asked where the million-dollar surplus goes, and Curro said that previously the whole amount would go the upcoming December tax rate, but this year the school district can retain some surplus. A determination will be made as they go to the tax rate meeting concerning how much they want to retain. Curro said that he “threw out the idea” that the $252,000 (revenue above expectations) be retained and the balance would go back as a revenue offset in December.

Committee member Bill Mee asked if there is a cap on how much could be retained, and Curro said it is 2.5 percent, which he estimated at $1.5 million. Dalton asked if that money had to be used for emergencies and Curro said it did.
Curro told the committee the district food service fund didn’t do well. “Food Service lost $16,000,” he said. “We’re zeroing in on the middle school. The middle school revenue for two years ago, the year we just closed last year, was down $50,000.”

Curro said that had the middle school come in anywhere close to normal, the district would have broken even.
He said they are focusing their efforts over the summer to figure out why the middle school dropped $50,000.
“We have some ideas as to what might be going on,” he said. “We’ll be posting a food service survey on the district website on Monday, and we encourage parents of middle and high school students, we don’t need elementary schools, to give us some guidance as to what is going on.”

Curro said the issue may be long lines and students bringing in lunch from home so they don’t have to be in line. He also noted that there had been an extensive menu change and a price increase, both of which may be causing students to bring in their lunch. He added that it was a revenue issue, not a cost issue. Curro closed his presentation by informing the committee that the refunding of the North School note was not happening because of the rates not being low enough. Noting the paperwork is complete, he said the possibility remains that rates would drop enough to go forward, but it didn’t look like it would.

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