BY JENNIFER SOLIS
---- — WEST NEWBURY— With the stroke of a gubernatorial pen, the Pentucket Regional School District appears to have shed the last vestiges of an earlier, less financially stable time period.
After a year-long process initiated by the superintendent of schools and the Pentucket school board with assistance from the local state legislative delegation, Gov. Deval Patrick signed off on a plan that frees up $495,000 for the district to use on capital projects. The funds had been kept in an emergency reserve account the district had been required to maintain for the past seven years.
The timing could not be better as Pentucket gears up for a costly renovation to the athletic complex on the secondary school campus next year.
As the result of a state financial oversight process requested in 2006 by the boards of selectmen in Groveland, Merrimac and West Newbury to address serious financial concerns, the school district was required to contribute a percentage of its budget annually to an emergency reserve account. The funds in the account could only be tapped for very specific — and limited — emergency reasons.
“Since we’ve had our finances on track for the last several years, we’ve fulfilled our obligations and therefore we’re due to get this money back,” said state Rep. Lenny Mirra, R-West Newbury.“This is great news as we could certainly use the money.”
Mirra worked with state Sens. Bruce Tarr and Kathleen O’Connor Ives to implement the specific legislative process required to allow the district to transfer the balance of the emergency reserve account into the “Pentucket Regional School District Middle and High School Complex Capital Fund.”
“Members of the legislative delegation provided valuable insight into the process needed to shift the imposed duplicate reserve funding to a more useful capital line item in the district’s budget,” said Pentucket Superintendent Jeff Mulqueen.
He said that sound fiscal practices since 2006 helped to make the case that Pentucket is now able to manage its resources responsibly. He pointed to the most recent budget process as an example of how the district is committed to “living within its means while also expanding opportunities for students.“
“Our zero-based budget process repositions existing resources to support the district’s World Class future,” Mulqueen said.
The School Committee is in the final stage of planning for a multi-million dollar renovation of the athletic complex, which is expected to break ground in early spring and be completed by the fall 2014.