Committee studies schools’ needs

NEW IPSWICH – The high school gym floor needs to be replaced and the estimated cost is about $150,000. Another $25,000 is needed to upgrade the bleachers to life safety codes.

The roof at Appleton School will have to be addressed soon, and there are repairs to be made at Mason Elementary School.

A Facilities Study Committee is currently looking at all of the schools in the district and setting some priorities.

Is it time to start using some of the Mascenic Regional School District’s unreserved fund balances to pay for these repairs and/or set up a capital reserve fund for future projects?

The idea was proposed last month by Dennis Meehan of Mason, who said he was willing to start a petition warrant article to use some of the funds to repair the gym floor. The school board said it would discuss the question with its attorney to see if using the fund balance to create a capital reserve fund was possible.

The unreserved fund balance, which in recent years has been as high as $200,000, has traditionally been returned to the towns to reduce taxes. The balance consists of money not placed in the budget because of uncertainties about amounts, and includes state reimbursements for special education and insurance rebates. Any unused portion of the approved budget has to be returned to the towns.

On Monday the board addressed the question again.

Superintendent Francine Fullam said putting all or some of the money into a fund was perfectly legal, and, in fact, the board had started such a fund a few years ago, but it was discontinued when a series of budgets were voted down.

“Then we used all of the fund balance we could for other projects,” she said. She noted that several other area school districts have had such reserve accounts for years.

There was unanimous agreement that using at least some of the balance would be a good idea, and getting an article passed for $150,000 to repair the floor was “probably iffy,” while one to use money already available had a much better chance.

Resident Mark Winslow of Greenville suggested that “a percentage of the unreserved balance could be put into a capital reserve fund, and as for the gym floor, go for it.”

The board agreed to study the proposal further and come up with wording for a warrant article.

The district’s Deliberative Session will be held Feb. 7.