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December 10, 2012

Pentucket seeks end to supplemental reserve account

WEST NEWBURY — The Pentucket Regional School Committee wants to end a requirement put in place by the state to help the district manage a fiscal emergency it faced six years ago.

In a letter to state Sen. Bruce Tarr, Pentucket Chairman Brian Page is asking that the district be allowed to discontinue funding a supplemental reserve account that was required as part of special legislation adopted in 2006. The chairman discussed his letter during a meeting last week of the school board’s Business, Finance and Operations subcommittee.

The legislation granted the district the ability to borrow up to $2.5 million in emergency funds. As part of the agreement the district’s finances were subject to review and management by a Municipal Finance Oversight Board and a supplemental reserve account had to be funded each budget cycle. Uses permitted for the supplemental money were limited to only very specific emergency situations.

Under the leadership of former Superintendent Paul Livingston, who was hired in 2006 and retired last year, the district’s accounting and control issues were resolved and, as a consequence, no money was ever borrowed from the state.

But when the Finance Control Board dissolved in 2009, it kept the requirement in place for the supplemental reserve account. The law states that the control board is the only body to waive the requirement.

Now that this board is no more and there is no other body to address the problem, Page is asking Tarr to file additional legislation to free the district from what he feels is an unnecessarily onerous obligation. Under the current legislation, Pentucket would need to fund $23,095 into the reserve account this budget cycle.

“With additional budget funding nearly stagnant, we feel that it is unnecessary to continue adding to a fund that was essentially never needed,” he wrote. Page believes that holding a balance of $497,214 “under such strict guidelines for spending, when it could be used for necessary one-time upgrades and expenditures, is equally an idea whose time has now passed.”

Under Pentucket’s current superintendent, Jeff Mulqueen, part of the district’s new “world class vision” involves matching district resources to education priorities.

“To meet the expectations of our parents, students and community, we need to allocate every dollar in a manner that creates our world class environment for teaching and learning,” Page concluded.

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