Parents ask for more financial reports from Burr and Burton
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | April 15,2013
MANCHESTER — A local couple who have a child who attends Burr and Burton Academy has asked the Manchester School Board to demand that Burr and Burton release its budget and audited financial returns to the public based on the large amount of tax money the school accepts and questions about its financial reports.
While the request for more financial reporting was on the agenda and Burr and Burton officials were invited to the meeting last week, Burr and Burton declined to send a representative, according to School Board Chairwoman Katie McNabb.
Peter Greenberg, a retired attorney, said he thought the sending contract between Burr and Burton and the Manchester School District was an “appropriate vehicle” to “alleviate or eliminate” questions about Burr and Burton’s financial reporting.
As an independent school, Burr and Burton does not have to release financial information. Voters approve a tuition rate for the school, but don’t see a budget. However, there is an agreement between Manchester and Burr and Burton which says that as long as voters approve the tuition rate, the school will accept any students from Manchester.
Financial questions about Burr and Burton were raised at the school floor meeting in Manchester in March by Christina Rainville, Greenberg’s wife. Rainville pointed out that according to the 990 forms, financial reports which nonprofits are required to file with the Internal Revenue Service, Burr and Burton had not taken any money from its endowment for the last four years for which reports have been filed.
However, Burr and Burton officials have told voters through reports filed in the annual town report that they have taken out money every year in order to alleviate the cost of education and to reduce property taxes. School officials promise to take as much as $500,000 from the endowment to “ensure that our sending towns get far more than they pay for.”
Greenberg asked the School Board to consider adding requirements to the contract they have with Burr and Burton demanding clear, complete and reliable financial reporting.
“All of this is appropriate and I submit all of this is something that you, as our School Board, should be working on because, for all intents and purposes, Burr and Burton is a taxpayer-financed school, financed by us and financed by the other sending towns,” Greenberg said.
He also raised concerns about whether Burr and Burton had respect for parents and taxpayers based on responses to questions raised by Rainville.
Greenberg made reference to a new 990 form which had been submitted to the Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union which has new information submitted for the endowment and the amount of money withdrawn. He pointed out this change was made after years of submitting reports which showed no money being taken from the endowment.
“Now they say year after year they’ve been filing inaccurate Internal Revenue Service returns. If that’s how Burr and Burton has been treating its IRS filings, which we all know are pretty serious ... how reliable is the information that we’re getting,” he said.
McNabb said during the meeting that while Burr and Burton had offered in March to submit its audited financial reports to the Manchester School Board, no information had been submitted
Rainville is scheduled to speak to the Manchester School Board on April 30 on separate questions about how special education services are delivered at Burr and Burton.