Education board eyes $400K surplus to fund enrichment

After hearing a number of parents express desire for more enrichment, Superintendent Kevin Smith said he is looking to tap the Continuing Education account’s $400,000 surplus in hope of restoring some enrichment opportunities that were cut in previous years.

“We’re really looking at providing new, appropriate after-school or before-school activities through the form of clubs to support the overall learning of kids,” Dr. Smith told the Board of Education during its Jan. 8 meeting.

As a nonprofit, Dr. Smith said, he doesn’t know if the board should be “carrying surpluses of that magnitude.”

Financial Officer Ken Post said the funds in the account are from Continuing Education program fees that have built up over a long period of time.

“Continuing Education runs many programs, including adult education, before- and after-school child care, enrichment programs, as well as summer programs,” Mr. Post told The Bulletin. “Fees are charged for these programs and all of the revenue and expenses are accounted for in a fund that is separate from the Board of Education’s general fund.”

Mr. Post said expenses have exceeded revenues some years, but it is usually the other way around.

“Historically, the surplus has been allowed to accumulate and some of it has been used to offset any deficits that have been incurred by these programs,” he said. “Funds have also been used from time to time to invest in equipment that is used by students participating in these programs. Typically, the school also benefits from being able to use the equipment.”

Mr. Post said the surplus has grown “beyond the point that we believe we need for normal operations of our programs, and we do not believe it would be right to continue to allow it to grow.”

Dr. Smith said it seems to him that enrichment programs are “in line with what those funds can be dedicated for.”

Because the account “lives under the town” and “is not so cut and dry,” Dr. Smith told the board, he will speak with counsel to make sure the board has the authority to “reallocate those funds toward an appropriate program.”

Mr. Post said the board has fiduciary responsibility for the account, which is “kept in a town-controlled account, as opposed to a school-controlled account.”

If the board is able to use money from the account, Dr. Smith said, he will propose reinvesting a portion of the funds in before- or after-school enrichment programs for students.