By Elizabeth F. McNamara
At the Town Council meeting Nov. 6, Town Manager Gayle Corrigan said the school district was $200,000 in debt to the town’s sewer enterprise fund. That was news to the school district. But it turns out Finance Director Linda Dykeman hasn’t yet resolved what the district might owe on sewers. That’s what she told the School Committee during their meeting Tuesday night.
“There’s a possibility that payments might not have been applied properly. There are invoices people don’t think are accurate,” Dykeman said. She said she was in the process of listing all invoices and all payments made by the school district to figure out what the balance actually is.
“There are two pieces of this puzzle. The first is what is owed and then why is it owed. I’m hearing from Mr. Wilmarth [director of facilities for the schools] that there’s different theories of what the agreements were regarding the deduct meter that was put in for the irrigation system,” said Dykeman, referring to the fields irrigation system at the high school that was installed in 2011. “People aren’t remembering these conversations the same is what I’m hearing. So once we get the actual invoices and know the payments and know the amount due, then we can sit down with those invoices and figure out if was there an anomaly, were there problems with the billing and go from there.”
Dykeman said Wilmarth told her he’d asked “repeatedly” for the invoices but did not receive them and that she was looking into that as well.
“It sounds to me that it’s not accurate to make the statement that the school owes the municipality $200,000,” said Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Mark. “We actually don’t know the actual number.”
Councilman Matt Plain pressed Dykeman harder on that point.
“The notion that $200,000 is owed is merely an allegation, until it can either be confirmed or dispelled,” he said, then asked, “The $200,000 is not verified, correct? That’s a yes or no.”
Dykeman declined to answer that directly.
“I haven’t done an audit to trace the payments and the lack of payments that produced that $200,000,” she said.
Committee member Michael Fain said he thought getting the real information should be a priority for the district, “if the town’s going to stand up there and say we owe them $200,000.”
The challenge for Dykeman is that, under the recent town-school consolidation, she is both the finance director for the town and for the schools. Her priority is to prepare for the town’s audit, which is to begin in soon.
The School Committee is also looking to Dykeman to supply an updated budget picture for the current fiscal year – and to find out if the district will have to dip into its fund balance as much as it had budgeted. So far, Dykeman said, it looks like it would be.
Chairwoman Mark asked Dykeman to get to the bottom of the sewer questions by the next School Committee meeting on Dec. 5 and get other information to the committee before it meets in joint session with the Town Council Dec. 18.