NCU Board Runs in Circles Over Paying for Track

NEWPORT CITY – North Country Union High School Chair Arne Amaliksen learned a good lesson recently. Don't start a certain project unless you have every dollar in your pocket and identified.Amaliksen was referring to the school's newly refurbished track. Last year, the board agreed to refurbish the track on the condition the project would not require taxpayer money. Teacher and track coach Gary Johnson agreed to spearhead the fundraising efforts.“As we went through the year, there were many activities,” Amaliksen said. “If you were to read all these, it was very rosy, things were looking good, we had monies being raised. One thing that suddenly came on the horizon was a request to start the project and get the work done this year before winter set in.” During the July 19, 2011, North Country Union High School Board meeting, a motion was made to let the work proceed and authorize the business operations committee to develop a plan to finance refurbishing the track and act upon it. The full board approved that motion.The board agreed to the request even though all of the money had not been raised. As of Tuesday, $80,000 has either come in or has been promised for the $188,000 project. Because of the shortfall, the board used excess money from the sale of a fleet of school buses to pay the bill. Glenn Hankinson, Director of Business for the North Country Supervisory Union, said the sale of the buses brought in an unanticipated revenue of $279,000.However, the business operations committee, the finance committee and the full board had not officially authorized the use of those funds to pay for the track. Because of that, the board has to now backtrack and determine what is the best way to authorize those payments. “Isn't that taxpayer money?” asked Newport City Council Member Denis Chenette, who attended the meeting with Newport City Council President John Wilson. Both Hankinson and board member Peter Moskovites said yes. “There's isn't a line that is going to be in next year's budget,” said Amaliksen. He said school boards are allowed to move excess money from one line item to another if needed. “The need that was put forward was the refurbishment.”Now the business operations committee has to figure out how to repay that money. Exactly how it will be done probably won't happen until the budget is finalized, which will be next month. Until then, the committee has few answers. In the meantime, a $200 donation made by the Cars of Yesteryear will go towards the track fund.