PITTSFORD — The county probate court has clarified at least one aspect of how money from the Burditt Fund can be released. The fund was established by the late Dan Burditt for the benefit of Pittsford and its school districts. Town Manager John Haverstock said Friday the town has sought to tap the fund in order to help pay for a proposed sidewalk project that will affect the Lothrop Elementary School. The town was awarded a $100,000 grant from the state designated for small projects. To get the money, however, the town must match it. Haverstock said the plan is to draw $25,000 from the Highway Fund, $25,000 from the Village Fund and the final $50,000 from the Burditt Fund. The project in question would fix about a quarter-mile stretch of sidewalk along Route 7, part of which goes by Lothrop Elementary School. He said Pittsford’s sidewalks in general have issues, but this particular stretch has been a safety concern for children walking to the school. Since it’s along Route 7, normally the state would address it, but the state isn’t planning to work on that section of the road until 2028 at the earliest. Haverstock said the town’s goal is to shore up the sidewalk until then. Any spending of money from the Burditt Fund requires a unanimous vote from the Pittsford Select Board and the Pittsford School Board. Since there is no longer a Pittsford School Board — it consolidated into the Otter Valley Unified Union School District along with former school boards in Goshen, Brandon, Leicester, Sudbury and Whiting — there’s been some question about who needs to vote in order to release the money. Only two of the OVUUSD board’s members — chairwoman Bonnie Bourne and Susan Markowski — are from Pittsford. Haverstock said the Burditt Fund itself is managed by the Trustees of the Trust, which now consists of Select Board members Tom Hooker and Hank Pelkey, along with resident Bradley Keith. The trustees sought clarification from Rutland County Probate Court on what votes were needed from the OVUUSD to release Burditt funds. The probate court order, released Sept. 4 by Judge Kevin P. Candon, essentially says only Pittsford representatives need to vote in order for the funds to be released. Candon wrote that he based his decision on what it appears Dan Burditt wanted when he established the trust. “It is interesting that Dan Burditt did not name the Board of Selectmen or the Town of Pittsford School Board as entities to make the requests,” Candon wrote. “Rather, he nominated the persons who constituted those boards.” He notes a distinction between the boards as entities and the individuals making up said boards. “Obviously, (Burditt) was a Pittsford guy,” Candon wrote. “The Trust was set up to aid the Town of Pittsford and its school districts. All the people he directed to request funds were Pittsford residents. It seems inconceivable that he would want a person from one of the outlying towns that make up the Unified District to be able to veto a disbursement from the trust.” According to the decision, the trustees also asked the court to make other amendments. “The trustees ask that disbursements from the trust first be paid to the Town of Pittsford for tracing those funds to their approved use,” Candon wrote. “For decades the trust has been making disbursements directly to the school districts. There is no requirement in the trust that payments be first paid to the town and the court sees no need for it now.” The trustees also requested a “percentage mechanism,” be put in place by the court. “If trust funds are requested for improvements for a school within the Otter Valley Unified Union School District, the trustees want to cover up to that percentage of the cost of the approved project as Pittsford students represent in the overall enrollment in the particular school at the time.” Candon wrote that this request would be “cumbersome and unworkable,” and directly conflicts with Dan Burditt’s wishes. Finally, the trustees wanted a ruling on whether or not the funds could be used for the sidewalk project. Candon wrote that no evidence on the project was presented, nor has there been any vote from School Board members, and so declined to make a ruling on that element. keith.whitcomb@rutlandherald.com

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