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Selectmen lacking information from Board of Education

WINSTED — Town Manager Wayne Dove and members of the Winchester Board of Selectmen said Tuesday night that they have yet to receive information from the town’s school board regarding a range of issues, including finalized accounts for the 2009-10 budget, a complete summary of the current 2010-11 budget and confirmation that the school board has complied with an agreement to issue financial reports to the state.

Most troubling, said Selectman Ken Fracasso, is the possibility that some work completed at Pearson Middle School during the 2010 summer break might not end up getting reimbursed by grant money. If that is the case, the school system’s overspend for 2009-10 would be larger than previously thought.

Current figures place the school-budget deficit at approximately $223,000 for 2009-10, but Fracasso said the school board has yet to present a finalized accounting of the fiscal year. “It’s just continuous bad news,” the selectman said.

Town Manager Wayne Dove said he is expecting a financial report from Superintendent of Schools Blaise Salerno on Wednesday, Sept. 15.

In their discussion of Board of Education items, the selectmen also noted that arrangements for financial reporting by the school board to the Board of Selectmen have not been made, as previously agreed, so the town manager and selectmen do not know what the current spending numbers are for the school budget.

Selectman Lisa Smith noted that members of the community are also concerned about a possible plan to move the town’s seventh and eighth grades up to the semi-private Gilbert School in an effort to save money in future fiscal years, but that information is also lacking on the specifics of that plan. “Where the community is confused is the Board of Eduation says they are giving us all of the information, and they aren’t,” she said, noting that representatives from Pearson Middle School are particularly concerned about the proposed transition and what it might mean for students and teachers.

Mayor Candy Perez agreed that the issue has been discussed by a small group of people but hasn’t been fully explained to members of the community. “There have been a lot of people who have said they haven’t felt like they are part of the process,” she acknowledged. Perez said she wants to see a staff listing for kindergarten through eighth grade for Winchester, along with the number of students per class.

In addition to issues with local school officials, Selectman Fracasso said that an offer from state Board of Education officials to name a facilitator to serve as a liaison between selectmen and school officials has yet to be realized. Fracasso said he has made repeated calls to state officials and has yet to receive a response.

Lastly, the Winchester Board of Education was to have submitted financial reports for the past four years to the state Board of Education on Sept. 1, but Fracasso said it is unknown if the school board complied with that request. “I for one would like to get a copy of that,” he said. “I think we need to take a hard look at the last four years and see if we can find out where we are having these difficulties.”

Under current estimates, the town’s fund balance was $400,000 this week. The Board of Education deficit would reduce funds to about $177,000. The town’s financial state is such that town officials are asking voters to approve tax-anticipation notes to pay bills in the current fiscal year.

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