Dec 162013

The Groton Line received a news release from Alison Manugian, Chairperson of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee over the weekend, presenting the current status of the committee and district administration concerning the district’s accounting errors that we reported last week in Groton-Dunstable Schools Freeze Spending, Lay Off Staff After $400,000 “Accounting Error” Surfaces. Here’s the news release:

Recent press coverage of financial concerns within the Groton Dunstable Regional School District has highlighted the need for additional information. The Groton Dunstable School Committee has been working with the district administration for several weeks on this matter. The information below outlines progress to date and will be followed by additional information and details as we move forward. The Superintendent and Central Office staff have been tireless in their efforts to sort through information and identify errors.

The district ended the 2013 fiscal year having overspent the budget approved by the towns. This was primarily due to errors in the salary model and in budgeting for services in special education. The new Business Manager identified concerns shortly after arriving in the district, which were confirmed during our annual audit by Melansen and Heath. The audit results and anticipated resolution have gone to the Commonwealth Department of Revenue (DOR) for review. Pending their approval we have the ability to balance the FY13 Budget from our Excess and Deficiency Account. At that point, we anticipate being able to provide more detailed information. We do not anticipate any need for additional resources from the Towns for FY13.

Due to the nature of the budgeting process, the same structural errors were carried forward into the current fiscal year (FY14). The administration has identified areas of concern and tentative resolutions. The current freeze on spending and the unfortunate changes to staffing are part of the solution. Dr. Bent has stepped forward offering a reduction in his position for the remainder of the year as an additional piece of the solution. The School committee will be discussing potential spending and revenue changes in the coming weeks. Options before us do not require additional town funding, but details are contingent on the DOR FY13 certification. We are confident that the administration will capably lead us to end this fiscal year with a balanced budget.

Moving forward, the next step will be to continue planning for FY15 and beyond; working to ensure sustainable continuance of high quality education for students. In addition to the budget planning work, the school committee and administration are working to review and improve our internal processes. The new Business Manager and new Payroll Clerk have corrected our salary data and model and reviewed the budget model. The school committee has requested a forensic audit be conducted. This will ensure all errors have been addressed and will identify additional process improvements to strengthen the district.

The school committee continues to be impressed with the capacity and abilities of the current administration. Each individual has worked tirelessly to carry on their day to day work while also supporting the financial examination. As a district we are fortunate to have a dynamic and experienced Superintendent at the helm during this rough patch. The school committee remains committed to maintaining our strong programs throughout the district and look forward to your support as well.

We will continue to provide details as we move forward with the process, likely during our upcoming school committee meetings.

Alison Manugian
Chair — Groton Dunstable Regional School Committee

Other sources close to the situation said it is possible that some results from the state audit and the forensic audit could be available by early January.