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School official resigns after Goffstown-New Boston school audit uncovers irregularities, errors in financial info

By KEVIN LANDRIGAN
New Hampshire Union Leader

December 16. 2017 9:28PM




GOFFSTOWN — The business administrator of the Goffstown and New Boston school districts abruptly resigned after school officials confirmed that widespread “irregularities and errors” in financial information reported to state officials were discovered while setting the school tax rate for December.

“At this time, all revenue, expenditures and funds have been accounted for and there is no concern that money is missing or was spent inappropriately,” school executives said in a statement.

But those mistakes included not properly returning money for tax relief at the end of the past fiscal year. Since the budget year that began in July 2011, $9.1 million has been retained in the Goffstown School District, officials said. In New Boston, it appears the same errors resulted in $1.1 million being retained, money that could have been used to lower property taxes in that town, officials said.

The SAU 19 School Board accepted Raymond Labore’s resignation at its regular meeting Wednesday, but it didn’t release a statement until Friday afternoon.

“Ray apologizes to his co-workers and the residents of Goffstown and New Boston for these errors. Ray is heartbroken by these errors,” said the statement released by Superintendent Brian Balke, the chairmen of the SAU School Board and the separate boards for Goffstown and New Boston.

Kaleb Jacob of the New Boston Taxpayers Association criticized how this damaging financial information was released.

“Who says that Friday afternoon document dumps only happen in Washington DC? Here’s one on our Goffstown/New Boston school audit,” Jacob posted on Facebook.

“At last evening’s Finance Committee meeting, it was said that the business administrator, Raymond Labore, was on leave for the last month. However, his resignation was accepted two days ago. As far as I can tell, the gist of it is that there is about a million dollars that could have been used for tax relief that was not available to us,” he wrote.

School officials said they have tried to be transparent about their finances, making these revelations all the more troubling.

“This remorse is compounded by the fact that the SAU business office team, the superintendent and the school boards have worked so hard on being transparent with budgeting and striking a balance between the needs of our schools and the impact on local property taxes,” the school statement said.

“Ray offers his most sincere apologies to school district employees, members of the Board of Selectmen, the Budget Committee/Finance Committee, the School Boards, and members of the community.”

School officials said the Goffstown and New Boston districts have received favorable audit findings year after year.

But after a mistake was made during the school budgeting process last year, Superintendent Balke asked an independent auditor, Angell and Company, to review all forms submitted to the state Department of Revenue Administration on setting the school portion of the tax rates.

“What we need to do is we need to make a determination of how we can return it to the taxpayers, use it towards the school district again in a manner that is in the best interest of the taxpayers,” Dian McCarthy, chairman of the Goffstown School Board, said in a statement.

The Goffstown School District did its own forensic audit, which determined fund balances “were not properly returned for tax relief” in “numerous tax years,” school officials said.

In their statement, school executives said they will look into ways to prevent wide swings in local school taxes, which these findings could cause.

“The boards will explore options to manage the surplus money over time to avoid a sharp dip followed by a subsequent spike in the tax rate, which can be extremely challenging for any homeowner who has property taxes paid along with their mortgage through an escrow account,” the SAU statement said.

klandrigan@unionleader.com


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