Selectmen argue and approve MBR funding method
WINSTED — The Board of Selectmen approved a method for the town to potentially fund its minimum budget requirement (MBR) shortfall during its regular meeting on Monday, Sept. 19.The motion was originally made by Selectman Ken Fracasso during a special meeting of the selectmen on Aug. 22.Fracasso’s motion is to direct the town’s finance manager to place all discretionary and unrestricted grants and revenues received from or through the state’s Department of Education into the town’s unencumbered fund balance for future use as the selectmen may authorize.Fracasso’s motion added that: “For the avoidance of doubt, discretionary and unrestricted grants and revenues include but are not limited to excess cost grants and related revenues, transportation grants and related revenues, health and welfare grants and related revenues and school construction reimbursements and related revenues.”The motion passed by a vote of 4-3, with Selectmen Fracasso, Glenn Albanesius, Karen Beadle and Lisa Smith voting for it.Mayor Candy Perez and Selectmen Michael Renzullo and George Closson voted against the motion.“When the [money] goes into the general fund, how does it come out to pay the costs that have been incurred?” Perez said. “If all the revenue for, let’s say, transportation, goes into the fund balance, how does it come back out to pay for the buses that are transporting the kids right now?”“When they submit a bill for payment,” Fracasso told Perez.“But when they submit a bill for payment it [is not] under their appropriations, so they don’t have it because it’s not appropriated anywhere,” Perez said. “How will it come out of our fund balance?”“According to [Department of Education chief financial officer Brian Mahoney], it is our prerogative and our discretion to dispense those funds,” Fracasso said. “[Finance Director Henry Centrella] said this is the best way that it can be done.”Perez said that, despite Fracasso’s explanation, that she still had issues with the motion.“What we are doing right now by transferring all of these grants into the fund balance is creating a revenue line item that has no expenditure line item within the town’s budget,” Perez said. “If you wanted to have grant money to come into the general fund, then in the school budget in March or April you have to put corresponding lines in there.”“They have no school budget,” Fracasso said.“I’m just saying that if you put money into the fund balance right now, there is no line item to move it out,” Perez said.Beadle said that the procedure has been approved by the selectmen in the past and that the money would be allocated to the school district.Fracasso, who has been a very outspoken critic of the Board of Education during this year’s MBR battle, did not relent in his criticism at Monday’s meeting.“If they could handle their money over there in a proper way we wouldn’t need to approve this,” Fracasso said. “Unfortunately, that is not the case. They don’t have any idea how much money that they have spent and we don’t have any idea of how much money they are spending. What has been happening in the past few years is [Centrella] has been taking the back of the check, endorsing it and giving it to the Board of Education, then we have no clue where it has gone.”Closson told the board that he did not feel that Fracasso’s motion was “the right way” to fund the MBR.Renzullo wanted to wait to hear from both Centrella and Town Attorney Kevin Nelligan before the board voted on the motion.“The way the motion reads, we’re talking about all kinds of grants, whether it’s limited to roads and bridges or anything else,” Renzullo said. “I would like to hear from [Centrella and Nelligan] to know it this is legal. I’m not willing to get grants taken back because we were not doing the right thing. I am not comfortable doing anything like this.”After the vote on Fracasso’s motion, the selectmen voted unanimously to direct Town Manager Dale Martin to research and develop plans to make up the MBR shortfall.