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Inter-Lakes proposal to retain unspent funds is a scary idea

To the editor,
A conundrum has arisen in the Inter-Lakes School District that I just can't figure out, no matter how many meetings I attend or questions I ask. In full disclosure, however, I admit that I'm not great with numbers and formulas.
The proposed budget, if everything is passed at the Annual District meeting on Wednesday, March 6, includes $138,609 for the Support Staff agreement, $562,761 of operating budget increases and $499,319 of operating revenue decreases, for a net assessment increase of $1,200,689. No, that's not even the conundrum — when has the school budget ever not included big increases, despite declining enrollment?
What has me most bothered right now is the page in the packet entitled, "WHAT DOES THIS BUDGET MEAN FOR MY TAX BILL?" Evidently, it is projected, that for every $250,000 of property value owned in Meredith, the school taxes will increase by $197.24. For the same property in Center Harbor, the tax bill will go down by $27.57 and folks in Sandwich will see a decrease of $124.95 for every $250,000 assessment.
In looking through the last 15 years of annual reports, I can't find a time when the residents of only one town paid for all of the increases — there have been various combinations of two towns paying up and one getting a decrease, but the burden has never been put on one town. You're welcome, Sandwich and Center Harbor! This begs the questions, "Why?" and "If there is a surplus returned to the towns at the end of the year, will it all go to Meredith?" I bet not.
Also, a big concern is Article 7 on the School District Warrant: "To see if the District will vote to authorize, indefinitely until rescinded, to retain year-end unassigned general funds ...at 2.5 percent of the current fiscal year's net assessment..." This means that if there is a surplus, this year more than $400,000, it can be put into a fund balance, collected indefinitely and used in the future to pay for emergencies or reduce the tax rate.
I think that is one scary idea. it would probably be fine if we were a one town district, because towns retain general funds all the time, but it could create a real unfair balance within a school cooperative, especially for the timing of future returned money to reduce a tax rate. The Inter-Lakes School District has Expendable Trust Funds already in place for emergencies, wish list encumbrances already come out of end of year surplus funds, and usually something left over has annually been given back to taxpayers. We don't need Article 7.
Please come to the meeting on March 6 at 7 p.m. in the I-LHS gym for information and voting, and also to welcome our new superintendent and say goodbye to long time board member Jack Carty!
Karen Sticht
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