Mohawk Trail and Hawlemont committees to vote on deficit next month

  • The Mohawk Trail and Hawlemont Regional school committees will each vote in June to fund to a combined deficit of $1 million. FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 5/17/2019 4:54:59 PM
Modified: 5/17/2019 4:54:45 PM

BUCKLAND — Mohawk Trail and Hawlemont Regional district school committees are set to vote to fund a combined deficit of $1 million at their June meetings, to correct a fiscal 2019 budget that was riddled with errors. 

Mohawk is set to end fiscal 2019 with a deficit of $700,000, while Hawlemont will end the current budget year about $223,000 in deficit, Superintendent Michael Buoniconti said.

The deficit was caused by errors made in multiple budget items, Buoniconti said. Many pieces of the budget were underfunded, which added up to a significant shortfall.

The School Committee has purview over the budget according to state General Law.

“It’s such an unusual situation for us to be in and the School Committee does control the purse strings,” Buoniconti said.

To pay for the shortfall, the school districts are using several funding sources, including “revolving accounts” (equivalent to a savings account), school choice money, as well as “circuit breaker” funds (used to offset special education costs), Buoniconti said.

To ensure this situation does not happen again, school districts will now review the budget at Education Subcommittee meetings on a monthly basis instead of each quarter as has been previously done.

The problem was uncovered in January by Business Administrator Melissa Dunnet, who assumed the position last July. If Dunnet did not discover these errors, the district’s annual audit undertaken by an accounting contractor Melason Heath would have identified the deficit, Buoniconti said.

Buoniconti said he is confident the fiscal 2020 budget is accurate because Dunnet wrote every line item “from scratch,” without drawing from fiscal 2019. This effort added about a month to the budget-writing process, Dunnet said.

The author of Mohawk and Hawlemont’s fiscal 2019 budget was former Business Administrator Stephen Nembirkow, who held the job for 10 months in 2017 and 2018. Nembirkow left Mohawk Trail mid-2018 to become business manager at Greenfield Public Schools.

According to Buoniconti, the fiscal 2019 shortfall will not impact next year’s budget.

“People need to understand that this deficit will have no impact on our school budget for next year,” Buoniconti said. “We made no reductions educationally as result.”

Reach Grace Bird at gbird@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 280.




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