By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILFORD — Leaders of the School Board and the Budget Committee appear to have come to a compromise solution to develop a default budget for next year and try to eliminate the animosity of previous year over what goes into a such a budget.
School Board Chairman Karen Thurston and Budget Committee Chairman Norman Silber have agreed to have two members from each board meet with Superintendent Kirk Beitler and Assistant Superintendent for Finance Scott Isabelle on Sept. 1 at 5:30 p.m. at the SAU office.
Chris McDonough, who is the School Board's representative to the Budget Committee, and school board member Sue Allen will join Silber and budget committee member Susan Greene, along with administrators at the public meeting.
"I am going to the meeting as chair of the budget committee because I was asked to do so by the new superintendent," Silber said Tuesday.
"I explained to him that I thought the meeting would be of limited utility because the (Department of Revenue Administration) form and the statute are clear, unambiguous and self-explanatory," he said.
Clear, unambiguous and self-explanatory are some of the words used by school board attorney Gordon Graham when he met with the board in a public session held last week.
In Graham's opinion, the words in the Official Ballot Law, commonly called SB2, regarding the creation of the default budget state that "for the purposes of this paragraph, one-time expenditures shall be appropriations not likely to recur in the succeeding budget, as determined by the governing body..."
He said the school board is the "governing body" in this instance, so it is the school board who determines what a one-time expense is.
Graham explained to them how they could make the default budget more transparent by using different categories and words.
Much of last budget year's dissension came from the Imagination Station playground and the fact that the money allocated to building it was not removed from the budget.
While it was a "one-time only" expense, explained Isabelle, a similar amount of money was budgeted for repaving the parking lot at the elementary school for this budget year.
Board Chairman Karen Thurston said that each year the school tries to budget for one major capital project – like the Imagination Station, the parking lot, and carpet and floor replacement.
Graham and Isabelle agreed the board needs to do a better job of explaining this to the Budget Committee and the taxpayers.
Graham suggested creating strategic plans for ongoing building repairs, technology upgrades, and curriculum so the budget committee can review expenses and see that they are consistent with accepted strategic plans and not "one-time only" expenses.
He also suggested creating capital reserve accounts but added the time-value of money should be considered, meaning with interest rates so low on savings, it may not make sense in some economic climates to create or add to them.