New superintendent promises transparency in fiscal matters
By Christian Avard
Staff Writer | February 15,2013
SPRINGFIELD — The newly appointed superintendent of schools told the public that school officials are honest when it comes to fiscal matters. Now Zach McLaughlin and the Springfield School District will be put to the test after officials promised not to spend a hefty refund from the state this fiscal year.
Steven Hier, director of financial services, told the School Board on Tuesday that the district will get $85,000 back from the state as a result of a change in health care premiums. While the news is good, he added that it could not be used to reduce the proposed $28.4 million school budget.
“The budget can’t be adjusted. It’s already fixed,” he said.
According to Hier, the district may use that money after Town Meeting Day but McLaughlin said it should remain on the books until the next fiscal year.
“There will be skeptics out there who will look at this and think, they’ll spend it on what that want. This is an opportunity to show the community that they can trust us in these matters,” McLaughlin said. “We want to show that integrity in the process.”
After the School Board meeting, Hier said he agreed with McLaughlin’s decision.
He also said, “We thought it was going to be a 14 percent increase (for health care) and it would be disingenuous of us to turn it into an extra teaching position or computers. That’s not what this was meant for.”
According to Hier, the Vermont Education Health Initiative requested the school district to budget a 14 percent increase rate in health care costs in their proposed school budgets for 2014. But things changed on Feb. 4 when he was informed that new rates set by the Green Mountain Care Board would go into effect instead.
Green Mountain Care is the state health care plan passed by the Legislature in 2011. The Green Mountain Care Board is a quasi-governing body that implements the health care plan.
According to Hier, there was a sense that the current health insurance pool that the school district is part of will eventually go out of business once Green Mountain Health Care is implemented by the state.
“When we receive the money, we will put it aside and not use it,” Hier said. “Next year, it’ll be part of our ending surplus and it could be tax relief or it could go toward other programs.”