Concerned citizens are suggesting private fundraising or a citizen’s petition to get a new playground built at Sandown North. These are well-intentioned suggestions but here is the legal background.
The district’s fiscal year ends on June 30. In order to pay for something using money from the 2014-2015 fiscal year, by law, a legally binding obligation had to have been established BEFORE July 1, 2015. A vote of the board to build a new playground is not sufficient to permit money to be encumbered into the next fiscal year.
Since the voters rejected a new playground by warrant for the fiscal year 2015-16, the district cannot legally spend any district money on this project in this just begun fiscal year. ( I suppose they could spend donated money, but this would have to be checked with an attorney.)
Given these two facts, no petition, no vote of the board, can now allow the surplus to be used to fund the playground project, nor can any money from the 2015-16 budget be used for the project. Changing the name of the project from a playground to a green space is merely semantics and I doubt wordplay would save the district from the charge of misappropriation of funds.
A petition could be taken up to ask for a district-wide vote to allow the district to tap into the capital reserve fund to pay for the playground.
The reason the lawyer said the warrant couldn’t be changed to use capital reserve funds is because it would change the intent of the warrant which is not permitted by law at deliberative session. If the warrant was presented at public hearing calling for the money to be raised and appropriated through new taxes, then that is the way the warrant has to go to the voters ultimately. Using money from the capital reserve fund would be an entirely different intention and the lawyer made exactly the correct determination at deliberative – even though the suggestion was a good one.
What we are seeing here is the district constantly pushing up against laws that are meant to protect taxpayers and our system of government.. It is poor planning that is hurting the children – not the laws or those who are trying to respect the laws.
Yes, students at SN need more playground space, but district voters said no to funding this even if some might want to second guess the reasons for this. The only way I see out of this is to call for a district vote in order to tap into the capital reserve fund. Before we do that, which would have some expense to it in itself, we should be certain $95,000 is really the cost. This number is based on just one bid and from past experience the first number has always been way high.