MONTROSE — Town Manager James Kreidler and Superintendent Salah Khelfaoui have both agreed to meet next week with a representative from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to discuss the purported net school spending deficit. The meeting comes on the heels of a new letter from the state that says the town has a $324,000 shortfall in minimum net school spending. However, the letter also said that the town is on track to pay back the shortfall this year.
Both the town and school district believe this letter inaccurately reflects the district’s finances, according to Mr. Kreidler. “Anyone with an inkling of what’s going on would think this is wrong,” Mr. Kreidler said. During the upcoming meeting between Mr. Kreidler, Dr. Khelfaoui and the state, they are slated to discuss the entire controversy including previous letters sent by the state and the indirect cost agreement.
School Committee officials are excited by the prospect of this meeting. “We’ve been trying to pressure them into taking some action,” said School Committee Chairman Michael Niles. “That’s the goal.” The School Committee had planned to hold an open meeting last night to discuss the indirect cost agreement with representative from the town, Select Board and Finance Committee, but had to cancel it in light of yesterday’s snowstorm.
The meeting has been tentatively rescheduled for next Wednesday, according to Mr. Niles. At the meeting, officials plan to discuss the indirect cost agreement, which determines what portion of the school budget the town has to pay for. Specifically, they planned to talk about the town’s current end-of-year reconciliation practice which school officials believe is unlawful and the school’s portion of the town accountant’s salary.
While Mr. Kreidler has said he is open to examining and possibly changing the reconciliation agreement, he believes the way the town accountant’s salary is divided is fair. “It’s good enough as it is,” he said. According to Finance Committee Chairman Ulysse Maillet, the Finance Committee has tried to remain neutral in this ongoing controversy. However, they are starting to get impatient for a resolution. “Our only concern is that there is a discrepancy hanging out there,” said Mr. Maillet. “It can’t go unresolved.”
For now, the Finance Committee has decided to wait and see if the planned meeting between the town manager, superintendent and state fixes the problem, but if that meeting proves unfruitful the Finance Committee will exercise its right to look into the matter further. “If they don’t solve the problem, we will be holding a public hearing,” said Mr. Maillet. He said he hopes it doesn’t come to that.