RICHMOND – More than a year and a half after parents, teachers and residents crowded the library at Nippersink Middle School over a proposed abatement, the School District 2 board has approved a new policy designed to trigger an alarm when the district’s coffers get that full again.
The months of crowded meetings at the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013 were triggered by a proposal by outgoing board member Sue Maurer to give taxpayers back about $3 million of the $10.4 million the district had in reserves.
Many parents and teachers were shocked to learn that the district had so much money in reserve, especially in light of the cuts that had been made about 10 years ago.
Instead of abating the funds, the district should put them toward facility and technology improvements and the reinstatement of cut programs, they argued.
The recently approved policy is one of a number of steps the board has taken since those series of meetings, including establishing a full-day kindergarten program, adding Spanish language classes to the “exploratory wheel” of elective classes middle-schoolers take and $450,000 worth of new technology. The district also commissioned a facilities audit to figure out what needed to be done across its three schools.
The new policy doesn’t set a restriction on how much money the district can have in the bank.
Instead, it calls for an annual review of the district’s fund balances and if they are less than 15 percent of annual revenue or more than 55 percent of expenditures in each of its major funds, the policy requires the district fund balances to be put on the board’s next agenda as a discussion item.
The policy was approved in a 4-0 vote with board President Bert Irslinger, board Vice President Sharon Bianchini, board member Dawn Heaney and board member Gary Kriz all voting yes, Superintendent Dan Oest said. The other three members of the board were absent.
“The policy already included a minimum balance provision, and it was the desire of the Board to include a ceiling as well,” Irslinger said in an email. “If fund balances reach the high end of the range, an agenda item will be automatically triggered, and the board can begin public discussion of the issue.”
Irslinger did not respond over several days to additional follow-up questions, including why the board decided to go with this policy as opposed to an alternative and if other alternatives were considered.