by Andrew Turner
School directors are looking ahead to the Aug. 4 special town meeting at which they expect to ask residents to reconsider a decision they made four months ago.
At town meeting in March, taxpayers endorsed the idea of allowing the school board to spend anything above the anticipated $2.8 million in state revenues, up to $3 million. Anything above that $3 million would go to reducing the tax rate.
However, the board has since learned that, due to a readjustment of the town's grand list, the amount the school district expects to get is nearly $750,000 above the anticipated amount.
Directors decided at their last meeting to call a special town meeting Aug. 4 to reconsider the budget, an admittedly risky prospect, but one with the intention of redistributing the unexpected windfall.
Rather than decide last night how they would ask the townspeople to do that, the board decided to take into consideration the financial picture put forth by Richard Boera, who had been hired to audit the books.
Boera has put together a packet of information detailing the final financial picture as well as some suggestions on possible state aid disbursement scenarios.
Coupled with that is resident Ward Reed's presentation last night that asks the board to reconsider having a special town meeting.
Reed, using a prepared packet of information, told the board that the extra money was not a windfall but funds entitled to the school district, the level of which could be expected each year.
Reed maintains that the district's debt is at such a nominal level that there is no urgency in retiring it, which is a suggestion of newly-hired Superintendent David Baker.
Reed stressed in his prepared information packet that the idea of holding a special meeting in August should be reversed because it could backfire on the board in the way of taxpayers voting to actually take away the extra $200,000 altogther, asking for a refund on the estimated 1997 budget surplus of $100,000, or reopening the recent Bruce Transportation arrangement that will allow a private company to bus students to St. Johnsbury schools for the first time ever.
The board will meet Monday to go over Boera's figures and suggestions, but also to contemplate Reed's concerns before charting their course for the special meeting.