Select Board Voice School Budget Concerns
Board of Selectmen
August 17, 2020
To the Voters of the Town of Edgecomb:
As Selectmen duly elected by the residents of the Town of Edgecomb, we are charged with a fiduciary responsibility to oversee the town’s finances in good faith and trust. This is arguably the most important charge of all Selectboard responsibilities. It is with this charge in mind that the Selectboard has unanimously voted to recommend a NO VOTE on five articles in the School Board’s proposed budget for the 2020/2021 fiscal year.
This recommendation has no reflection on the quality of the education being provided or the capabilities and expertise of the teachers and staff. It is solely based on prudent and responsible fiscal considerations given the great uncertainty now—and for several years into the future—because of the Covid-19 crisis.
Cap School Spending at Last Year’s Level
Because of this year’s school shut down and an unexpected reduction in demand for mandatory special-education services, the School completed the 2019/2020 fiscal year with a surplus of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even though the Edgecomb Eddy School has been designated as “Green,” and therefore eligible able to open, a reasonable person would assume that it ispossible that the school may not remain open for the entire 2020/2021 school year. The truth of the matter is, we don’tknow what’s instore for the Town of Edgecomb, the school and its finances.
The Selectboard is anticipating a significant reduction in tax revenue over the next few years as citizens and businesses deal with the probability of short- and long-term income losses. Despite these obvious challenges, the School Board has submitted a budget that absorbs a large portion of the current year’s surplus while implementing no reductions in programming or operational expenses. It is with this backdrop that the Selectboard has come to make these no-vote ballot recommendations for Articles 48, 60 and 61.
Repair School Roof, Fund Covid-19 Expenses;
Reject Establishing Automatic Reserve Funding
There are also two specific articles that beg for scrutiny. Article 65 calls for establishing a non-lapsing reserve fund of $250,000. The school’s proposal calls for using this fund to replace the roof on the Edgecomb Eddy School. The Selectboard fully supports the use of these surplus funds for the roof repair. The problem lies in the use of the term “non-lapsing.” This means that every year, this fund could be replenished to the original fund level until such time that the Town votes to remove the reserve fund. Establishing this substantial fund will, in effect, give the School carte blanche to tap these funds every year without direct oversight by Town’s people.
The second article in question is Article 66 which calls for establishing a non-lapsing emergency reserve fund of $50,000 for Covid-19 related expenses. Once again, we object to the non-lapsing nature of this fund. In addition, it is likely that the State and/or the Federal government will reimburse towns for expenses incurred due to Covid-19 issues, rendering this fund unnecessary.
The non-lapsing nature of these funds give the Selectboard great concern. Our suggestion would have been to eliminate the term “non-lapsing,” make the roof repairs as proposed, and to fund any Covid-19 expenses not reimbursed by the State of Federal governments.
No-vote Won’t Close School, Cut Jobs, or Reduce Education
A no vote on these articles as recommended by the Selectboard will not close the Edgecomb Eddie School, cut teachers’salaries, or reduce educational services. A no vote will automatically put last year’s budget (2019/2020) in place for the 2020/2021 fiscal year. The school administration would have two choices if the no-votes carry:
The Selectboard does not make these recommendations lightly. But prudent financial stewardship requires such action for the benefit of all Edgecomb tax payers. We unanimously recommend voting no on School Articles 48, 60, 61, 65 and 66.
Jack Sarmanian, Selectman, Chair
Mike Smith, Selectman
Ted Hugger, Selectman