Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Local News

Region 4 Making Steady Progress Reducing Capital Fund Deficit, Reports Finance Director

With Region 4’s (R4) budget development process for the 2022–’23 school year soon ramping up in January, R4 Finance Director Robert “Bob” Grissom provided an update on the district’s capital reserve fund at a Nov. 4 Board of Education (BOE) meeting.

According to Grissom, there has been steady progress in recent years to reduce a $429,729 deficit in the capital fund. The accounting firm Mahoney Sabol uncovered the deficit in the district’s 2018 and 2019 financial audits.

Grissom reported that with a $35,000 appropriation to the capital reserve fund this year, which was approved as part of the 2021–’22 budget, the fund will operate in the black with a $18,135 balance moving into budgeting season.

“Now with this appropriation for the capital reserve fund… we’re in the positive, which is great news,” he said.

A total of $220,650 was approved for capital projects for the current school year, including the $35,000 appropriation to the capital reserve fund.

A total of $18,135 has been spent to date, according to Grissom.

This includes a $17,295 chiller replacement at John Winthrop Middle School (JWMS), which came in under budget, saving the district $12,705.

This item was in addition to replacing the building management system at the middle school, which was done using a transfer of unexpended funds from the 2020–’21 school year. Feedback from students and staff on both items have been very positive, according to Grissom.

“The heating and cooling in the building is much more in line with what they would have hoped,” said Grissom. “A lot of the issues or the manual reworking that would have had to happen to start school or to make sure the school environment was ready for students, all that was very seamless this year.”

There was also $840 spent on consulting work for repairs to a chimney at Valley Regional High School. The cost for the full repair was estimated at $50,000.

“It is reasonable to do the full repair and do the brick work, but there is a potential for some cost savings [that] would mean changing the aesthetic of the chimney, essentially lowering it,” said Grissom. “The consultant felt that the chimney did not need to be as high for building code as it currently is and so there could be some potential cost savings to bring it lower.”

Several board members discussed the need to gather second opinions, potentially also from the fire marshal, before lowering the chimney.

“I think the chimney is at a height because it was planned to be at that height for whatever reasons back when it was put in originally,” said Lol Fearon, R4 board member. “I would not want, you know, to move forward with anything that posed any kind of health or safety danger if it were lowered. So, I think at least a second opinion is needed on that.”

Superintendent of Schools Brian White said ascertaining the true costs of the chimney repairs was necessary before moving forward with the other capital projects.

“We do want to make sure that we have a good understanding of the true costs of the chimney to ensure that we have adequate capital funds available this year to repair it and then that will determine the remaining funds for some of the other priorities that we have identified,” said White.

The other capital project is a building management system upgrade at the high school, which contractors estimate “would come in at $48,894, so just under what we had allocated in the budget for this year,” said Grissom.

This work would be completed during school breaks in December and April.

The curbing and sidewalk replacement at JWMS, which was estimated to cost $55,650, was put on hold pending the security vestibule project, which was recently approved by voters in the municipal election on Nov. 2.

“We didn’t want to start any sidewalk work or paving that could potentially be disrupted or harmed with some of the equipment that is going to have to come in to do the security project,” said Grissom. “So, we still have the funds available for that. Now with the security project moving forward, we’ll have a better idea of the timing for when we may want to do that work.”

It’s anticipated that the capital reserve fund will continue to operate in the black at the end of the current school year.

“We think that if there are no other surprises or any issues, that we could potentially end the year around $30,000 favorable in a positive position for the capital reserve fund,” he said.


Elizabeth Reinhart covers news for Chester, Deep River, and Essex for Zip06. Email Elizabeth at e.reinhart@shorepublishing.com.

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