In today's News-Times, you can read Nanci Hutson's story about the Board of Ed's decision to return its $741,000 to the Town's General Fund. In her lead, Nanci wrote, "Tuesday night's split vote of the Board of Education will send the district's $741,000 balance back into the town's general operation fund rather than the board's capital reserve account."
What's wrong with this picture? Simple. BOE Member and attorney Bill Wellman was absolutely right when he said that the BOE had no legal right to have any say whatsoever about the disposition of this money. It had no legal right to keep any of it for its capital reserve fund or for any other purpose. Not $250,000. Not $200,000. Not one cent.
That unexpended money belongs to the taxpayers and should have been "returned" to the General Fund immediately without a stop at a BOE Meeting. And what's amazing is that there isn't a person in the BOE Finance Department who doesn't know it, including old-timer Tom Corbett. Before even allowing it on the Agenda (prepared by the Administration), Board Chairman Lisa Diamond should have asked the Board's attorney about its rights. If he's worth his salt, he'd have confirmed my claim.
Further, the idea of the Board putting the money into its Capital Reserve is illegal. See Section 10-241 of the Connecticut General Statutes and Board of Ed v. City of New Haven 237 Conn. 169 (1996) in which the Supreme Court distinguished between capital and operating accounts. The Town Council controls for former, the BOE the latter. If the BOE wants to add money to its Capital Reserve it must seek COuncil permission as it has done in the past.
Kudos to Chairman Lisa Diamond for breaking with her party and a "thumbs down" to Dave Lawson, Tom McSherry and the other Democrats for their hubris and utter failure to pay attention to their legal obligations and their obligations to the taxpayers-at-large. It just shows you the mind-set.