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Windfall in Goffstown: Another local budget mistake

January 12. 2018 12:19AM

If an audit of your local school district is going to turn up a huge mistake, discovering $10 million in surplus funds isn’t the worst thing that could happen.

A look at the books of SAU 19 revealed $10 million had been improperly retained since 2011, $9.1 million from Goffstown. That money now goes back to the town.

Of course, Goffstown taxpayers aren’t really getting a bonus. They are just getting an interest-free return on money they had been overpaying for the past seven years.

This is a good problem for a town to have, but it’s still a problem. Taxpayers in Pembroke and Londonderry were recently hit with unexpected budget shortfalls because of mistakes by budget writers.

Goffstown officials had been mulling what to do with the audit’s windfall, but state law dictates that the funds go back into the town’s tax rate. The surplus may make it easier for Goffstown voters to say yes to warrant articles this spring, but the school board can’t just spend it.

Voters could decide to give themselves a one-year dip in property taxes, keep the tax rate level by spending the surplus on one-time projects, or some combination of the two.

As Union Leader correspondent Melissa Proulx reported, the Goffstown School Board this week decided to return the money. The temptation to spend an unexpected surplus is always strong. We’re pleased Goffstown officials resisted it, and followed state law.

Politics Editorial Goffstown

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