GILFORD — One member of the School Board said last night that he regretted signing the 2016-2017 default budget because of the some information brought forward by members of the Budget Committee. Despite his protestations, nothing changed.
Chris McDonough, who is the newest member, initially made a motion at last night's emergency School Board meeting that the entire board "revisit the default budget just to the point where I can remove my signature from it."
Without a second, the board, which was short Chairman Karen Thurston, adjourned to a neighboring room to discuss the motion with their attorney. After a 10-minute interval, the four members returned to the meeting room, where McDonough removed his motion with the caveat that he could make the following statement:
"At the time and date at which I signed the default budget I did believe it to the true and accurate," he said.
The proposed budget for school year 2016-2017 is $25,391,196. The default budget, which will go into effect should the proposed budget not get a majority vote on election day, is $25,688,824 or $297,628 higher.
The preparation of the annual default budget has been the subject of considerable controversy when some members of the Budget Committee, led by member Norman Silber, said they found about $300,000 of one-time only expenditures included in it. By law, a default budget is comprised of the ongoing expenses of a district or community plus any contractual agreements minus any one-time expenditures. One-time only expenses are defined by the governing body, which in this case, is the School Board.
The purpose of last night's meeting was for the School Board to present 10 years of data and minutes as to how the default budgets of the past had gone into effect since enacting the official ballot law, commonly referred to as SB2, and how the department has been consistent in its preparation, despite the differences in membership of both the School Board and the Budget Committee.
Just before McDonough's motion, the board split 2-to-2, with McDonough and member Sue Allen on the "no" side, to review four key items to determine if they were one-time only expenditures. In the event of a tie vote at any meeting, the motion fails.
After considerable discussion at the Jan. 7, Budget Committee meeting about its validity, member David Horvath Sr. made a motion "to have the school district go back to their list and find $127,966 in one-time projects to be removed." The motion failed by a vote of 3 to 8. Horvath, member Sue Greene, and Selectman's representative Richard "Rags" Grenier voted for the reviews.
When asked if there was time to revisit it, School District Business Administrator Scott Isabelle said it had to be done and submitted last night by 11:59 p.m.
However, on Jan 7, Budget Committee members were told it was the "11th hour" and were given the impression that there was not enough time for the School Board to review it for possible changes in time to be placed on the warrant.
"I guess the 11th hour stretches into three weeks," said Budget Committee member Harry Bean after learning last night that the School Board had until 11:59 p.m. to resubmit the default budget to the state Department of Revenue Administration.
Seven members of the Budget Committee were at last night's including the three who voted yes to a School Board review of the default budget earlier this month. At last night's meeting, member Harry Bean said the only reason he voted against a review on Jan. 7 was because he was told it was the "11th hour" and it was too late.
When asked, Silber said he too would have changed his vote on Jan. 7 if he had known the School Board had three weeks to re-examine it.
Member Bob Henderson said he would have still voted "no" to the reconsideration because he felt the motion of Jan. 7 was to try to "hurt" the School Board and not insure the default budget was accurate.
CLARIFICATION In this story, School Board members Chris McDonough and Susan Allen voted "yes" to review the default budget. Their motion failed because of a tie vote.