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To clear up some confusion about a discrepancy of more than $300,000 in the Region 4 Board of Education (BOE) accounts, the board held a workshop on the subject on Sept. 25. The discrepancy was found to be the result of improper bookkeeping rather than improper spending.
Chip Ward, a retired business manager for West Hartford Schools who was asked to help out back in July, led the workshop, which revealed his findings after investigating the history of the district’s sinking fund and its recent audits. Sinking funds are established to save up money for future purchases, in this case, land.
In fiscal year 2018, the board purchased the Mislick property located next to Valley Regional High School. The land, which has several building lots on it, was purchased with the possibility of being used for supplementary sports fields; the price tag was $379,916.
“We were under the impression at the time of the purchase of the land that there was money in the account to cover the cost,” said BOE member Jane Cavanaugh.
Ward explained that at the time of the purchase, there was cash in the sinking fund available for the purchase. He also found there was no corresponding appropriation for the purchase from the fund.
“The funds for the purchase came from the cash on hand, plus Region 4 General Fund contributed $123,732 from the 2016-’17 fiscal year surplus, $78,000 from the 2015-’16 year surplus, $26,675 from the 2014-’15 year surplus, plus $15,000 from the 2017-’18 operating budget. That totals $243,930 of the $379,916 land purchase,” Ward explained. “The difference was made up by the cash balance in the fund.”
He added, “So, while the Capital Sinking Fund paid $379,916 for the land, there was no recording of the purchase in the asset listing of the Capital Fund. The land purchase was recorded in the General Fund assets. That increase is assets possibly should have been offset by the $379,916 reduction in the ‘due to other funds’ in the Capital Sinking Fund...It would also mean that the General Fund would drop from a $36,393 surplus to a $343,523 deficit. This just changes where the deficit shows.”
He went to explain the minutia of how this recording of monies may have taken place and landed on explaining to the board that per discussion with Region 4 Business Manager Kim Allen, preliminary fiscal year 2019 year-end balances in the General Fund and Capital Sinking Fund come to a total of negative $30,000.
“Most of the deficit of the total deficit of $341,733 that Region 4 had at the end of fiscal year 2018 was eliminated in the fiscal year 2019,” explained Ward. “So, in April 2020 when the numbers are final, the board can transfer the General Fund surplus to offset most of the Capital Sinking Fund deficit.”
Ward added, “This is a modest number in a budget of $20 million.”
“I think that it is finally cleared up and what we are really interested in now is moving forward. Thank you,” said Board Chair Jennifer Clark.