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Second look at spending

Frontier supt. asks Deerfield, Sunderland to reconsider rejected capital requests

SUNDERLAND — Frontier School Superintendent Regina Nash has asked Sunderland and Deerfield to reconsider some previously rejected capital spending requests at upcoming special town meetings.

Nash requested a school budget article piggyback onto any future special town meeting for the regional ambulance proposal. The dates of the town meetings are not set yet, but are expected in September.

This spring, the Frontier Regional School Committee requested $133,250 for capital projects for next year in addition to its $9.7 million operating budget.

The school request included $67,500 for safety and security improvements, $5,750 for electrical improvements, $30,000 each for a maintenance pickup and a student transport van.

At the annual town meetings in Sunderland and Deerfield, selectmen recommended and townspeople supported only safety and security projects.

Deerfield approved $14,803 in safety and security capital requests for the school, coming $68,118 short of the school’s request. Sunderland approved $17,759 for its share of the $67,500 for school building safety and security updates.

The School Committee still hopes to get the two towns’ share of the electrical improvements, maintenance truck and student transport van.

The two other Frontier member towns, Conway and Whately, funded their full shares of the school requests.

According to Nash, the school only needs one town to step up with funding.

Over the spring budget cycle, there was confusion whether all four towns had to approve the capital requests. The towns’ attorneys advised the projects’ funding was optional, but the school’s lawyer said they only required three of four towns’ approval, like the operating budget.

Nash believes the towns are “in error according to the regional agreement and state statute.”

She contends that the Frontier capital requests requires three towns’ approval like the operating budget.

Nash explained she originally presented the projects the wrong way.

“We called them capital improvements. They’re not capital improvements. What these are are supplemental budget items,” Nash explained.

Both state General Laws and the regional agreement do not refer to any projects called capital improvements. Nash remains hopeful that the project requests will get on special town meeting warrants and townspeople will get to vote.

Gaining the favor of the selectmen may still be a challenge for Frontier.

On Monday, Sunderland selectmen discussed how Frontier has yet to address their original concern — how the remaining capital projects address student safety.

Aside from the capital requests, Sunderland Town Administrator Margaret Nartowicz also contacted incoming Superintendent Martha Barrett, Frontier Business Manager Patricia Cavanaugh and the three other town administrators to set up a July meeting to discuss the school’s financial picture.

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