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Non-essential spending freeze imposed by WMRSD school board


January 06, 2010
WHITEFIELD — In order to make sure their financial obligations can be met, a spending freeze was approved by the White Mountains Regional School Board last week.

School board member Lynne Holland of Jefferson said at the "working" budget session on Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 29, that she had developed grave concerns about the District ability "to meet its payroll" through the end of the fiscal year.

Quickly picking up on her comment, SAU #36 Interim Superintendent Dr. Harry Fensom recommended that a "spending freeze" be imposed, designed to stop "all nonessential spending," starting the following morning, Dec. 30.

He had already discussed that possibility with the administrative leadership team made up of principals, directors, and assistant principals, Dr. Fensom reported.

"Hopefully this will be temporary," he said.

The board voted unanimously, 4 to 0, to adopt his recommendation.

The board was short three members. All were either working or unavailable for family reasons: chairman Greg Odell of Dalton; Cathy Warren of Carroll, and Heather Boudle of Lancaster.

The meeting began 70 minutes late while waiting for a quorum. All four school principals, plus two other administrators as well as to Central Office budget guru Sheila Goulet, made small talk while waiting for board member Randy Boggess to arrive to meet the quorum requirement.

Coming up with at least a trial balance of what funds were either unencumbered (uncommitted) or unspent is a top priority, Dr. Fensom said.

The District is paying a five-day-a-week stipend to Dr. Fensom and is still paying Dr. Lou Lafasciano his full salary and benefits since he is on a paid administrative leave, as voted on Nov. 30 by the school board.

Both vice chairman Ray Gradual of Whitefield, who chaired the meeting in chairman Odell's absence, and Dr. Fensom replied "no" when asked if either the board's law firm or its auditors, Mercier Associates, had provided any information or timeline as to when information would be available about why Dr. Lafasciano had been placed on leave or what, if anything, had been learned in through recently conducted audit.

The bulk of the meeting (see related article) was spent on better understanding the proposed 2010-2011 budget in preparation for SAU #36's public budget hearing scheduled on Wednesday, Jan. 13.

At the end of its budget discussions, the board went into a closed-door executive session to deal with personnel issues.

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