If you had the misfortune of watching the Sept. 6 Timberlane school board meeting, you would have witnessed verbal gymnastics of an amazing sort.
Three board members, Kim Farah, Shawn O’Neil, and Jennifer Silva, called out the SAU 55’s administration for undertaking a contract with a consultant when the money the board had voted to pay for this contract was no longer legally available.
You see, the Timberlane board had voted to use $20,000 from the 17/18 budget year to pay for a consultant to the SAU to help them mop up the bookkeeping mess that was all over the floor at audit time. This vote took place close to the end of the 17/18 fiscal year. In order to encumber the money, allowing it to be spent in the forthcoming fiscal year, a legally enforceable obligation had to be established BEFORE June 30, 2018, the end of the fiscal year. This is a requirement of NH state law, specifically RSA 32:7, which you can read below.
The consultant’s contract was signed on July 21, 2018 – three weeks into the new fiscal year. This means that the $20,000 for the 17/18 year was legally no longer available to pay the contract. The contract was presented for signing anyway. To be clear, the board did not authorize the payment of any monies from the 18/19 budget for the purpose of an SAU consultant.
When Dr. Metzler was confronted by the knowledgeable board members, he accused them of making up their own rules! As I always tell my children, when someone falsely accuses you of something, you can be certain your accusers are doing exactly what they are falsely accusing.
In the superintendent’s defense, another board member pointed out how such things had been done before.
MUNICIPAL BUDGET LAW
Section 32:7 Lapse of Appropriations.
Annual meeting appropriations shall cover anticipated expenditures for one fiscal year. All appropriations shall lapse at the end of the fiscal year and any unexpended portion thereof shall not be expended without further appropriation, unless:
I. The amount has, prior to the end of that fiscal year, become encumbered by a legally-enforceable obligation, created by contract or otherwise, to any person for the expenditure of that amount; or …
MUNICIPAL BUDGET LAW
32:12 Penalty. Any person or persons violating the provisions of this subdivision shall be subject to removal from office on proper petition brought before the superior court. Such petition shall take precedence over other actions pending in the court and shall be heard and decided as speedily as possible.
How did this end? Dr. Metzler offered to ask our auditors for their opinion about the availability of the 17/18 money. Dr. Farah, Mr. O’Neil, Brian Boyle and Mrs. Silva all knew the SAU could not use 17/18 money to pay the consulting contract, yet they agreed to defer to a third party. The notion that a contract would be presented for signing when the funding for it had lapsed disturbed no one. I’ll take bets the issue will never be revisited and SAU 55 will do as it pleases with your money because your elected officials charged with its oversight huff and puff and do absolutely nothing.