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Independent audit to be done of Pembroke School District after budget shortfall

By Melissa Proulx
Union Leader Correspondent

December 06. 2017 12:21AM
Hundreds came out to the Monday night school board meeting to voice concerns about the shortfall. (Melissa Proulx/Union Leader Correspondent)



PEMBROKE — An independent audit of the school district budget will be done in order to find answers to what caused a nearly $1 million shortfall.

The school board decided to go forward with having the audit done at a meeting held at Pembroke Academy on Monday.

“It’s clear that there’s still several questions that the community would like to have answered regarding what happened,” said board Chairman Dan Driscoll.

Tom Serafin, a member of the school board, said his hope is that the audit will help give a clearer picture as to what went wrong, and help restore the public’s trust.

“We obviously have some credibility issues we need to address as a board...,” he said, adding he hoped this action will help solve that problem.

The audit is being organized by the school board and its attorney, not by anyone from the SAU 53 administration.

About $977,000 will need to be raised in this upcoming tax bill to cover the deficit, officials said. The first estimate had put that number closer to $1.7 million.

The budget shortfall is due to overestimating how much revenue the district was supposed to bring in at the end of the fiscal year.

Officials have identified a miscalculation in tuition costs, which accounted for a $737,000 budgetary loss.

Since the announcement of the shortfall, residents have voiced their outrage over the matter, demanding more information as to why it happened and calling for severe consequences.

“If something happened like this in a regular job, somebody would have been fired,” said resident Diana Young.

There will be a cost to having the audit done. Those numbers should be ready within the next couple of weeks, according to officials.

The current school district budget has been frozen, and it contains a surplus just over $660,000, which is about 70 percent of the shortfall.

Some residents were concerned about consequences of the freeze, and how it could affect extra curricular activities such as the robotics program.

“Right now in this day and age, cutting programs and giving kids with nothing to do after school is really dangerous,” said resident Jeff Furlotte, citing the drug crisis the state is facing. “...We must give these kids something to do and something to look forward to.”

The robotics line was unfrozen on Monday.

Examining the spending freeze will be a continuing item on the board’s agenda going forward, officials said.

Cuts to the current budget will be looked at as well. Just over $1 million in cuts are currently being proposed, including six teaching positions and 10 non-certified positions.

Officials are also looking to see if there will be any additional savings by closing down the Village School and sending those elementary students to Hill School.

The school board is scheduled to meet again on Dec. 18, but if the cost for the audit is ready before then the board might hold an additional meeting next week.


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