Voters OK special appropriation

REGION 16 — Voters in Region 16 approved a special appropriation of $244,191 of surplus funds into a new capital non-recurring account by a slim margin of four votes Monday night.

The appropriation was approved 66-62 through a paper ballot vote at a district meeting at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. The Region 16 Board of Education, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, sought the appropriation to make repairs to the roof over the art wing at Woodland.

School board Chair Donna Cullen said the roof needs to be taken care of and the appropriation will take care of the repairs over the art wing.

If the appropriation had failed, the board couldn’t keep the funds and likely would have sought to bond the money for the repairs. Cullen said the board didn’t want to do this because the district would incur interest payments as well as the cost of the work.

The $244,191 appropriated Monday night will come from surplus funds from the 2012-13 fiscal year.  

The district finished the 2012-13 fiscal year with an unreserved year-end balance of $744,191. The surplus stemmed from lower than expected expenditures, including a savings of about $280,000 due to staff turnover and staff on unpaid leave for medical reasons, and revenues coming in about $240,000 higher than expected, according to school officials.

Out of the $744,191 year-end balance, the $500,000 projected to be returned to the towns as “carry over” will be given back and used to pay for education expenses this year.

State statute allows regional school districts to create a capital non-recurring account, which can only be used to pay for one-time capital expenses. The appropriation is specifically targeted to repair the roof over the art wing at Woodland.

Officials discovered last fall that parts of the roofs at the school, which opened in 2001, were in disarray and leaking in spots due to installation errors. The roof over the school’s art wing was in the worst shape. The statute of limitations on the roof has expired.

Repairs have been made on all three roofs with issues at Woodland including temporary repairs of the roof over the art wing to get it through the winter until it can be replaced.

Officials are looking to put off replacing the other roofs that need repairs for a couple of years until the district will be eligible for some reimbursement from the state on the work.

Director of Facilities Dave Langdon said in a previous interview the repairs done to the other roofs will hold up fine until the district can get some state reimbursement to defray the cost.

Prior to the vote Monday night a handful of residents addressed the board. Residents expressed frustrations over the roof at the 13-year-old Woodland needing to be repaired and concerns that the board is trying to “squirrel away” money with the capital account.

Regional districts are allowed to put up to 1 percent of their budgets into a capital non-recurring account each year by state statute. The board has not put any other funds in the account, which it created in February.

Ultimately, the decisive votes to approve the appropriation came from Prospect voters. The vote was 24-20 in favor of the move among Prospect voters. The vote was tied at 42-42 among Beacon Falls voters.

Cullen said the tight vote shows how split people are on how to use the $244,191.

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