Home » Selectmen refuse to rescind motion on withholding school funds

Selectmen refuse to rescind motion on withholding school funds

WINSTED — The Winchester Board of Selectmen chose to disregard advice from Town Attorney Kevin Nelligan Monday night, Oct. 17, refusing to rescind a motion to withhold funds from Winchester Public Schools.The original motion, made by Selectman Ken Fracasso on Aug. 22 and approved by the board’s Republican-led majority on Sept. 19, calls for state funds slated for the school district to be placed into the town’s fund balance. Fracasso’s motion directed 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 relates revenues.”At Monday’s meeting, Mayor Candy Perez questioned the legality of the motion and asked for Nelligan’s legal opinion.“I have issues in terms of the wording of it,” Perez said. “Is it proper or are there things that needs to be changed?”In response, Nelligan said that the motion “definitely needs some work.”“The way that it’s written right now, [Finance Director Henry Centrella] can’t implement what’s being asked for him to do,” Nelligan said.He then said there were several areas of the motion that should be revised and fixed in order for it to be implemented properly.Nelligan explained that the motion should state that funds would be put in the town’s general fund and not in a fund balance.“You can’t put money into a fund balance because a fund balance exists only after an audit,” Nelligan said. “Also, you cannot put in the entire excess cost grant in as revenue.”Nelligan said he spoke with Selectman Karen Beadle before the meeting to consult with her about the motion.Beadle was not present at the meeting.“What Karen said was the intent seemed to be that not the entire excess costs grant would end up in the town’s general fund,” Nelligan said. “From what she told me, the intent of the motion is not to have millions of dollars end up in the town’s general fund. If that is the intent, then it needs to be clarified in this motion. Also, transportation grants cannot be included [in the motion] for this fiscal year. It is a regular line item on the Board of Education’s [side of the budget]. School construction grants are already in the [town’s general fund budget line item]. Because it’s already a line item, the motion would not apply because it’s already in the town’s budget.”Nelligan then gave the selectmen two options: Vote to rescind the original motion or to do nothing and let the motion stand as is.“It would be much cleaner if [the selectmen] rescinded the motion and then restated the motion,” Nelligan said.Mayor Perez then made the motion to rescind the motion, but Nelligan said the motion to rescind should come from the selectmen who approved the original motion.Selectmen Fracasso, Glenn Albanesius and Lisa Smith, who were the selectmen present at the meeting who originally voted for the motion, did not make a motion to rescind the original motion.Instead, Fracasso recommended that Nelligan consult with Centrella to discuss crafting a new motion.“If I am correct, these funds do not appear until February and May,” Fracasso said. “I don’t think this is a hot topic issue right now, any hotter than it already is.”

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