Selectmen make right decision on MBR funds
The Winchester Board of Selectmen made the right decision Monday night to transfer more than $730,000 to this year’s school budget and begin paying down a widely publicized shortfall that has left the school system underfunded by more than $1.3 million.Selectmen properly acknowledged the fact that state officials have repeatedly told them the Winchester school system has not been properly funded, and that the town must increase the school budget by $1,358,149, bringing the town appropriation for the school budget up from $18.6 million to the state-mandated minimum budget requirement (MBR) of $19,958,149. The board also rightly noted that accounting discrepancies totaling $636,000 from the 2009-10 budget have yet to be officially addressed by state officials, and that a slim possibility remains that the school system will be asked to pay some or all of that amount back. For that reason, the board withheld approximately that amount from its appropriation, with the expectation that the matter will be resolved in the next few weeks. When that happens, the board can appropriate the rest of the $1.3 million and be done with the MBR matter once and for all.Opponents of fully funding the school system continue to bark up the wrong tree, claiming that the school board did not follow through on a promise to close a school building this year and is therefore not entitled to the full MBR. The board minority, which also supported suing the school system, has suggested school officials somehow illegally distributed the $636,000. State officials have repeatedly said the claims are unjustified, and the current Board of Selectmen has done the right thing again by dismissing the accusations.David LaPointe of the Winchester Taxpayers Association, added his voice to the chorus of misguided opposition Monday night, stumbling through a diatribe about how he believes the town charter is the ultimate authority in fiscal matters and that selectmen must schedule a town meeting to appropriate any funds in excess of $15,000. LaPointe vowed to organize a petition asking selectmen to schedule a town meeting on the issue. Without an attorney, LaPointe dismissed the legal opinion of Town Attorney Kevin Nelligan, that fiscal obligations —particularly in areas of statewide concern — cannot be circumvented by the town charter.Thankfully, the Winchester Board of Selectmen has chosen to disregard the opinions and threats of people who are only interested in tearing down the town and creating more legal and financial problems for the school system and the municipality. Voters should remember the fact that the current Board of Selectmen is righting the wrongs of previous boards by repairing financial damage, putting the school budget in the black and keeping the town out of legal trouble with the state.