State grows impatient with town over MBR
WINSTED — Despite the Board of Selectmen voting in November to fully fund the state-mandated 2011-12 Minimum Budget Requirement (MBR) for the school district, the town has not filed a timetable with the state on when the school system can see the remaining funds.This has been noted by Brian Mahoney, who is the chief financial officer for the state Department of Education.Mahoney sent a letter to Town Attorney Kevin Nelligan on Dec. 29. The letter was reviewed by the selectmen during their meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 3.Mahoney wrote that, while he is appreciative of the town deciding to comply with the MBR, the department is concerned that the town has not filed a timetable with the state on how to fund it.“I understand your concern around the approximately $600,000 of questioned costs that arose out of the 2009-10 audit of the Board of Education’s end of year school report,” Mahoney wrote in his letter. “The department’s Office of Internal Audit has already begun its review. If all goes well, the department should make a final decision on these costs before the middle of February. In the meantime, we are expecting that the $750,000 balance of the MBR shortfall be appropriated to the Board of Education without further delay.”Mahoney goes on to request a response by Friday, Jan. 6, that includes a date by when the town will provide $750,000 to the Board of Education.“Once the department has ruled on the questioned cost issue, we can discuss the next steps towards full, timely compliance of the MBR,” Mahoney wrote.At the Jan. 3 selectmen’s meeting, Town Manager Dale Martin said he would work with Nelligan to craft a response to Mahoney.“This board opted to pass a motion to fund the MBR; that’s what we will be telling the state,” Martin said. “However, our concerns with questioned costs still remains. That is what we will say. This ultimately concerns questionable costs.”In November, after at least 11 months of delays, a financial audit of the Winchester school district for fiscal 2009-10 was completed.The audit showed that approximately $636,000 worth of expenditures were not properly documented by the school district.At a Board of Education meeting in December, Superintendent of Schools Thomas Danehy said that the district can prove that the funds were properly spent.Danehy explained that in November 2009, the school district received $1.1 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds.He said that some of the grant funds were spent on salary payments to employees.