News Column

School board savings account OK'd

June 25, 2014

By Michelle Firestone, The Chronicle, Willimantic, Conn.

June 25--COVENTRY -- Per the endorsement of the town council, the board of education will now establish a non-lapsing account for surplus funds.

The council approved the establishment of the fund by a 7-0 vote during its June 16 meeting.

"It lets them plan for capital items and they would have the money there," said Coventry Town Council Chairman Jeffrey Shorts.

Because the council is the town's governing body, it was responsible for approving the fund.

"We set up the process," said Shorts. "The council still has fiduciary responsibility."

A state statute passed in 2010 allows surplus accounts, provided the funds added do not exceed 1 percent of the total education budget from which they come.

The purpose of the school board account is to keep school board money left over at the end of the fiscal year and carry funds over from year-to-year for the purpose of using the money for one-time expenses.

The fund will be managed by School Finance Director Robert Carroll.

"It will allow us, in theory, to put up to 1 percent of our budget, if there is any excess money, into this account," said Coventry Superintendent of Schools David Petrone.

One percent of the current school board budget is approximately $260,500.

Petrone said the money could be used for items that have been outlined in the six-year capital improvement plan and emergency expenses.

"Either way, it's offsetting future expenses," said Coventry Town Manager John Elsesser.

It cannot be used for general operating expenses or regular maintenance.

The fund, Elsesser said, is "motivation for them (school officials) to save up money throughout the year because they know, in the long run, they will be able to use it for priorities."

As part of their decision, councilmen agreed if the town council wants to close the fund, they would first need to conduct a public hearing.

The council also agreed expenditures from the fund would need to be approved by the council, ex-cept in the case of emergencies. With less than two weeks left in the fiscal year, Petrone said he was anticipating a surplus between $20,000 and $40,000.

The idea of a non-lapsing account for the school board has been discussed since at least 2012.

" It's taken some time, but there was a productive dialogue between the two agencies to come to something they could agree on," said Elsesser.

The town has had a similar fund, the capital nonrecurring expenditure fund.

"From time to time, we have been able to do that on the town side, but that's not likely this year," said Elsesser. "We won't really know for sure until October when the books are audited, but we're talking about tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands."

Coventry Board of Education Chairman Jennifer Beausoleil could not be reached for comment.


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