BARRE — A school board that’s well down the road to irrelevance reorganized, filled two vacancies and celebrated a small deficit Monday night.
It wasn’t handshakes and high-fives, but Barre school commissioners were breathing easier based on the latest financial projection suggesting the city’s pre-K-8 school district is on track to end the current fiscal year a little less than $10,000 in the red.
Considering the projected deficit was nearly 10 times that — $96,000 — in November, that’s notable progress, and board members were told the district’s financial performance through three quarters of the fiscal year compares favorably to its sister districts in what is now the Barre Supervisory Union.
All three autonomous districts — which are on the verge of a state-ordered merger to create one new pre-K-12 district comprised of elementary schools in Barre and Barre Town and jointly owned Spaulding High School — are expected to end the fiscal year with operating deficits.
According to latest estimates, the city’s school district looks like it will come closest to breaking even thanks in part to grant funds that will cover the cost of reading and math coaches and a decision to restructure how the district serves students with behavioral needs.
The $9,600 deficit now being projected, coupled with plans to spend $165,000 in reserve funds on one-time projects, would draw down the Barre district’s available fund balance from roughly $510,000 to about $335,000 heading into the merger. That would be roughly equivalent to the fund balance the Barre Town School District would carry into the merger.
Superintendent John Pandolfo said the Barre Town board is eyeing a $56,000 deficit, but several potential one-time expenses would add another $130,000 to that total. The board is considering purchasing a plow truck, repairing the roof and upgrading the boiler at Barre Town Middle and Elementary School.
Assuming Barre Town school directors approve that expense, the audited fund balance of $560,000 the district carried into the current fiscal year would be depleted and the new figure — roughly $373,000 — would be comparable to what the city is projecting.
Meanwhile, Pandolfo said conservative projections suggest Spaulding High School will end the year with a $45,000 operating deficit that would reduce the $115,000 it has in reserve to about $70,000 heading into the merger.
The supervisory union adds another $80,000 to the mix, creating a projected fund balance for the merged district of nearly $860,000.
How much, if any, of that fund balance should be used to offset projected tax increases for the merged district budget is a question the transitional board members will consider when they meet on Thursday at Spaulding High School.
With elections for a new nine-member board set for April 9 and a budget vote tentatively planned for May 14, members of the Barre board likely reorganized for last time time and filled vacancies on two boards that aren’t expected to exist this time next year.
Chair Sonya Spaulding, who is among those running for the new board, was re-elected chairwoman during Monday’s meeting. School commissioners appointed Giuliano Cecchinelli II to the vacancy created when he missed the filing deadline in January. Cecchinelli is also running for a seat on the new board.
The other vacancy involved one of Barre’s four seats on the seven-member Spaulding board. Anthony Folland, who filled that seat until Town Meeting Day, but also missed the filing deadline, was appointed to the high school board.