November 22. 2017 1:00AM

Parents petition Pembroke School Board for special meeting on budget shortfall

Union Leader Correspondent

Allenstown resident Mike Frascinella spoke during the Tuesday night School Board meeting. (Melissa Proulx)

PEMBROKE — Residents are continuing to seek answers about a school district budget shortfall this past year.

A petition was handed in on Tuesday calling for a special meeting with district officials to further explain the nearly $1 million shortfall. More than 300 signed the petition.

“I’m sure I’m going to be getting more,” said Ann Bond, who created the online petition.

About $977,000 will need to be raised to cover the deficit. Initial estimates had put that number closer to $1.7 million.

This is due to an overestimation of how much revenue the district was supposed to bring in at the end of the fiscal year.

Tuition costs are a primary component of the shortfall, with about a $737,000 loss from what was estimated. This is primarily due to students having more options of where they can attend high school other than Pembroke Academy.

“There’s more options for students than there were in the past,” said Amber Wheeler, the business manager for the district.

Some, however, think this issue needs to be explored more.

“People have stories, you want to hear their stories,” said resident April Villani. “You need to hear what’s not working for families and why they’re seeking alternatives.”

There were some other revenue estimates that were less than expected, primarily from federal grants and state aid.

“We’re just receiving less revenue,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler said she notified town and school officials as soon as she could about the shortfall. A memo was also sent out to parents on Nov. 13, shortly after tax bills, explaining the shortfall.

School board members were also presented with a packet on Tuesday showing the current spending and revenue reports, and student enrollment.

“As of today, we are in good shape,” Wheeler said.

That information will be posted on the school district’s website. A similar report will also be presented to the school board each month.

Co-Superintendent Patty Sherman said two weeks ago that she’s frozen the budget and that any unnecessary spending will need to be approved only for emergencies.

That will be discussed at the next school board meeting to see if anything should be exempt from that freeze.

Sherman said she will continue to field questions that parents may have and try to offer some explanation as to what happened.

“We hope we can keep these lines of communications opened and you can hear the answers to your questions satisfactorily,” she said.