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Pembroke board votes to conduct independent audit of almost $1m school budget shortfall

Union Leader Correspondent

December 13. 2017 12:10AM
School board members had suggested the audit during a meeting last week, where hundreds of residents came out to voice concerns about the school district budget shortfall. (Melissa Proulx/Correspondent)

PEMBROKE — During a special meeting Tuesday, the school board approved an independent audit aimed at looking for why a school district budget shortfall occurred.

During the roughly 10-minute meeting, the board approved the audit, giving Chairman Dan Driscoll and board member Tom Serafin the ability to pick whatever individual or organization to conduct the audit.

“The sooner, the better,” Driscoll said of picking who will conduct the audit.

The two are working with the board’s attorney, Dean Eggert, to make that decision.

The audit will not cost more than $10,000, though the exact price won’t be known until a firm is picked. The goal is to have the audit done by the end of January, during which time a presentation is expected to be made to both the board and the public.

The scope of the audit will be primarily to look for the cause of a nearly $1 million shortfall in the school district budget.

About $977,000 will need to be raised through this upcoming tax bill to cover a deficit in the district’s budget.

The deficit is due to a overestimation of how much revenue the district was expected to bring in at the end of the fiscal year.

The bulk of the shortfall comes from tuition revenue, which turned out to be $737,000 less than what was estimated.

The idea of having an audit done was discussed at the school board meeting last week as a way to provide a clearer picture as to what went wrong and to help restore the public’s trust in the budgeting process.

“We obviously have some credibility issues we need to address as a board...,” said Serafin at that meeting, adding that he hoped this action would help resolve the issue.

Since the announcement of the shortfall, residents have voiced their outrage over the matter, saying that they need more information about what happened and that there need to be consequences for those responsible.

“If something happened like this in a regular job, somebody would have been fired,” said resident Diana Young.

Residents said this led to a sharp increase in their tax bills, causing a severe financial burden for some.

Property owner Douglas Johnson said his tax bill is going to be about $1,200 more than what he expected.

“I’m on a fixed income, I don’t know if I can make that,” he said.

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