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A photo of Goffstown High School from the school's website. 

Goffstown school officials agree to turn over $9.1M audit discovered

GOFFSTOWN — Millions of dollars wrongly kept on the school district’s books won’t be used to help fund any proposed warrant articles, school board members decided.

On Monday, the school board decided not to use any of the surplus found in December to help cover the cost of two warrant articles being proposed for this year’s town meeting.

Just over $10 million was retained by the district since 2011, $9.1 million of which was from Goffstown. The rest of the money was in the New Boston budgets, the other town in SAU 19.

The two warrant articles deal with setting up a capital reserve fund for capital improvement projects and purchasing about 110 acres of land behind the high school. Both are projects that the school board has been discussing for years. Money for them will now come through taxation, if they are approved.

“If the voters vote no, they vote no,” said school board Chairman Dian McCarthy.

The question never was if the money would be returned, but how, McCarthy said.

The money will be returned to the town at the end of the fiscal year in July and be used to offset future tax rates, per state law.

This would mean a sharp drop in the tax rate one year and a spike in the next, something SAU 19 Superintendent Brian Balke said he was trying to prevent.

Other options have been discussed over the last few months as to what to do with the $9.1 million, besides using some of the money for warrant articles. These included keeping 2.5 percent of the money on the books still to be used for future tax relief or emergency expenditures and returning the rest; creating special legislation that would allow Goffstown to retain the surplus at the end of the year; or using the money to pay off debts in the district.

The money was discovered during the annual audit of the school district. The work is still being completed and the report is expected to be finalized before the end of the month.

At that point, the document will be public and a presentation will be made at a school board meeting.

The town’s budget committee also discussed the surplus. Some members were concerned about the validity of the proposed budget.

However, Balke said they’ve gone through it line by line, and that multiple parties played a part in putting it together.

“No one does a budget this large in isolation,” he said. “This is a team effort.”

Balke said they will continue to look into the issue and figure out what can be changed to prevent this from happening in the future. Already, the scope of the annual audit has been broadened.

“This didn’t happen overnight and we can’t fix it overnight,” he said.

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