Region 16 and state settle reimbursement issue

REGION 16 — Region 16 will receive some reimbursement for the land bought for Prospect Elementary School after all.

Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin said school officials met with Director of the Office of School Construction Grants and Review Konstantinos Diamantis last week. Yamin said the region will receive $50,000 in reimbursement from the state for the land.

Yamin said Diamantis was receptive to the region’s issues.

“I was very happy with the outcome,” Yamin said.

Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, bought the 47-acre site off of New Haven Road for $1.55 million in December of 2008.

School districts are eligible for partial reimbursement on land bought for a school based on the amount of land used by a school. Prospect Elementary School, which was the largest part of a three-part building project, sits on 17 acres. The region initially expected to be reimbursed $287,000 for the land.

The school building project didn’t move forward until December 2011 when voters approved the plan at a referendum. In 2013, Director of Finance and Business Operations Pamela Mangini, who joined the school district in 2012, discovered that the district hadn’t applied for reimbursement on the land. She reached out to the state to apply for reimbursement, and after discussions, the Office of School Construction Grants and Review agreed to reimburse the district $50,000.

However, when the district received the Department of Administrative Services’ audit report on Prospect Elementary and renovations done at Laurel Ledge Elementary School, it stated the district was ineligible for reimbursement on the land because the appraisals are “unreliable.” The report states that two appraisals were done three years apart, and one appraised the land at $1.55 million, while the other set the appraisal at $660,000.

Diamantis said the auditors are a separate department and independent from the Office of School Construction Grants and Review to provide checks and balances. He said the Office of School Construction Grants and Review is living up to the previous agreement by providing the $50,000 in reimbursement.

Diamantis said his office tries to work hand-in-hand with school districts for the betterment of children in the state.

“We look forward to working with not just Region 16 but with all the school districts,” he said.

Yamin said the $50,000 will be included in the region’s final grant payment that will be set aside to pay long-term debt associated with the building project.

“I think it all worked out well,” Yamin said.