School committee transfers money for legal fees
Northborough – The Northborough Southborough Regional School Committee's decision to transfer money from Algonquin Regional High School's operating budget to cover legal fees incurred as a result of the addition and renovation project was hotly debated at its Oct. 17 meeting.
At the meeting, the committee decided to transfer $100,000 from the operating budget to the building committee's budget for legal expenses.
The Oct. 17 transfer was similar to a transfer made in June 2006 – also in the amount of $100,000 – except that the 2006 transfer moved the funds from the school health appropriation account. The 2006 transfer also went to the building committee's budget to cover legal fees.
Regional School Committee member Joan Frank expressed concern over the movement of the money because she didn't feel the reasons for doing so were fully explained.
"I have a problem transferring money from the operating budge to the building project without knowing it [the reason]," Frank said. "You can't do that without aff ecting the school's education program."
Committee member Sue Sartori agreed, adding that doing so could leave town residents with a feeling that the school budget contained more money than it needs.
"All of a sudden we were able to transfer $200,000," Sartori said. "Residents are going to believe if that's the case, then the budget can be reduced by $200,000 the next time around. Is that the case? Or the message we want to give to residents?"
As a result, Frank made a motion to request that the money from the high school's operating budget that had been transferred to the addition and renovation project be returned to the operating budget.
The motion failed, 5-3, with Frank, Sartori and Jack Kessler voting in favor of the move, and Paul Butka, Anthony Poteete, Shirley Lundberg, Janice Hunt and John Reynolds voting against returning the money to the operating budget.
Frank made the motion, she said, to illustrate that she is concerned about the money and the way it was transferred.
Lundberg, chair of the Building Committee, said the transfer was necessary because the funds were needed for the legal fees incurred as a result of a lawsuit filed by Eastern Contractors Inc., of Framingham, which sued the district after claiming it had breached the contract between the two by withholding payment.
The school district fired the company three months later, citing that Eastern had defaulted on the contract, didn't properly staff the job site and failed to meet completion deadlines.
The two sides settled in July, the district receiving the unpaid balance on Eastern's construction contract, about $1 million, as well as an additional $2.35 million.
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