AN ACT REGULATING THE FINANCIAL CONDITIONS IN THE PENTUCKET REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
SECTION 1. Notwithstanding any general or special law, or the regional school district agreement to the contrary, the Pentucket regional school district, with the approval of the finance control board established by section 3, may borrow, at one time or from time to time, sums that are approved by the regional school district committee and then by the board, but in no event in an amount in the aggregate in excess of $2,500,000 to maintain and operate the regional school district while it adjusts the level of its expenses and revenues so as to achieve balanced budgets and fiscal stability. The board may limit the borrowing to an amount or amounts less than the amount or amounts approved by the regional school district committee. Bonds or notes issued under the authority of this act for operating purposes may be issued for a term of not more than 5 years and shall be backed by the full faith and credit of the regional school district. Bonds or notes issued under the authority of this act shall be eligible to be issued as qualified bonds or notes under chapter 44A of the General Laws. Indebtedness incurred under this act shall, so far as apt, be subject to chapter 44 of the General Laws. The maturities of each issue of bonds or notes authorized under this act, including any refunding bonds, may, if approved by the regional school district officers authorized to issue and approve the bonds or notes, and by the board, be arranged so that for each issue the amounts payable in the several years for principal and interest combined are as nearly equal as is practicable in the opinion of the officers authorized to issue and approve the bonds or notes, or in the alternative, in accordance with a schedule providing for a more rapid amortization of principal.
SECTION 2. All proceeds of any loan authorized by section 1 shall be deposited in a separate fund which shall be set up on the books of the regional school district and be maintained separate and apart from all other funds and accounts of the regional school district. This fund shall be called the Pentucket Regional School District Financial Stability Fund, in this act called the fund. The regional school committee, with the approval of the board, may authorize disbursements from the fund for operating purposes that the committee considers appropriate to maintain and continue regional school district operations. Funds borrowed for operating purposes may be applied, with the approval of the director of accounts in the department of revenue, in this act referred to as the director, as general revenue for purposes of computing assessments to the member town, under section 16B of chapter 71 of the General Laws. The director may establish rules and procedures that he considers appropriate relating to disbursements from the fund and the reporting and accounting for these disbursements.
SECTION 3. There shall be in the Pentucket Regional School District a 5-person finance control board, consisting of the secretary of administration and finance or his designee, the commissioner of revenue or his designee, the deputy commissioner of the division of local services of the department of revenue or his designee, the commissioner of education or his designee, and the chairman of the regional school committee or his designee. The board shall initiate and assure the implementation of appropriate initiatives to secure the financial stability of the school district, and shall continue in existence until June 30, 2009 unless the board members, after consideration of the recommendation of the regional school committee if it chooses to offer one, by majority vote shall annually vote to continue the operation of the board from year to year after that date.
Until the board ceases to exist, no appropriation, borrowing authorization or transfer shall take effect until approved by the board. As used in this act, "appropriation" means each line item in the district budget, and "transfer" means adjustments between or among line items under the district's procedures. In addition to the authority and powers conferred elsewhere in this act, and notwithstanding any general or special law, or regional school district agreement to the contrary, the board shall have the following authority:
(a) The authority, by majority vote, to amend at any time any appropriation, borrowing authority, transfer, or other municipal spending authority. The authority to amend, under this act, shall include the power to increase or decrease an existing appropriation, borrowing authorization, transfer or spending authority; the authority to eliminate an existing appropriation, borrowing authorization, transfer or spending authority; and the power to create an appropriation, transfer or spending authority. In exercising its authority under this clause, the board may act with respect to district spending purposes that are not the subject of separately identified appropriations.
(b) Notwithstanding section 16B of chapter 71 of the General Laws, or any other general or special law, if there is no balanced annual budget lawfully established for a fiscal year by the first day of that fiscal year, the authority, by majority vote, to establish a budget for that fiscal year that it considers appropriate and to amend, as provided for above, the appropriations during that fiscal year.
(c) The authority, by majority vote, to encumber or impound, at any time, any unexpended or unencumbered appropriation or spending authority of any kind notwithstanding the prior approval of the board of that appropriation or spending authority. To the extent that funds previously encumbered or impounded remain encumbered or impounded at the conclusion of the fiscal year, these amounts shall revert to the district's excess and deficiency account.
(d) In addition and without limitation of the other authority in this section, the independent authority, by majority vote, to establish, set, raise or lower any fee or charge, for any service or other district activity, otherwise within the authority of the district to establish, set, raise or lower. No fee or charge shall be established, set, raised or lowered without written notice to the school committee and superintendent at least 45 days before the effective date of that action.
Action by the board, under authority of this act, shall in all respects constitute valid and lawful action by the regional school district for purposes of chapters 44, 70 and 71 of the General Laws and for all school finance and other matters.
In each year during which the board continues in existence, the superintendent shall, at the same time as the annual budget is submitted to the school committee, provide to the board and to the director a copy of the proposed annual budget, together with a supporting revenue and expenditure statement, in such detail as the board may prescribe. The board shall review this budgetary information and may issue a report of its findings.
In order to promote and ensure the fiscal stability of the Pentucket regional school district, the board may also require the filing of a detailed annual work plan by each district official with the power to make contracts or incur liabilities on behalf of the district which shall be approved by the superintendent, setting forth certain actions which may be implemented by each official to ensure greater efficiency in the delivery of services by the district.
Each work plan shall be in such detail as the board may prescribe, and may include, but not be limited to, the following: (1) a plan for improved financial and spending controls; (2) budget guidelines and objectives for the fiscal year; (3) a professional and nonprofessional staffing plan; (4) a plan for other proposed savings to be implemented. Any work plan submitted by a district official shall be approved by the school committee before submission to the board. During the course of each fiscal year in which the board is in existence, the board may require that status reports be filed with the board by these district officials on a quarterly basis.
The board shall have full authority to waive any reporting or filing requirements contained in this section.
The board may prepare reports of its findings and review and issue recommendations for further action to the superintendent and regional school district committee.
Members of the board who are employees or officers of the commonwealth or the regional school district shall serve without compensation.
SECTION 4. The regional school district business manager, or other official with responsibility for accounting matters, shall have the powers and duties vested in this office by general or special law, and in addition, the powers and duties provided in this act. To the extent not otherwise inconsistent with this act, the office of the regional school district business manager shall also have the powers and duties provided by the regional school agreement and the responsibility to establish and maintain financial control systems in accordance with chapter 647 of the acts of 1989.
The regional school district business manager shall, in addition to his other duties, provide, upon majority vote and at the written request of the finance control board, the regional school district committee or superintendent, within a reasonable time period from that request, an oral or written assessment, or both, as the committee may request, of the current and future financial impact of the cost of any proposed expenditure, lease or contract agreement for a term including more than 1 fiscal year, collective bargaining agreement or borrowing authorization, particularly, but not limited to, as that cost item would relate to the continuous provision of the existing level of district services. To the extent reasonable, this assessment shall include an analysis or other information of a financial nature that is specifically requested by the finance control board, superintendent or committee. The assessment and analysis shall be provided by the regional school district business manager as his professional opinion.
SECTION 5. (a) Notwithstanding any general or special law or the regional school district agreement to the contrary, the Pentucket regional school district shall establish a special reserve fund for extraordinary and unforeseen expenditures, which fund shall be called the Supplemental Reserve Fund to Ensure Fiscal Stability. This fund shall be separate and in addition to any amounts appropriated under section 16G½ of chapter 71 of the General Laws.
(b) Commencing with fiscal year 2007 and for all following fiscal years, before the date when assessments to the member towns are computed, the district shall include a supplemental reserve fund sum in the budget for that fiscal year, as determined under this act.
(c) The supplemental reserve fund sum for fiscal year 2007 shall be an amount equal to 0.25 per cent of the gross amount of the regional district budget for the prior fiscal years as determined by the director; the supplemental reserve fund sum for fiscal year 2008 shall be an amount equal to 0.50 per cent of the gross amount of the regional district budget for the prior fiscal year as determined by the director; the supplemental reserve fund sum for fiscal year 2009 shall be an amount equal to 0.75 per cent of the gross amount of the regional district budget for the prior fiscal year as determined by the director; the supplemental reserve fund sum for fiscal year 2010 shall be an amount equal to 1 per cent of the gross amount of the regional district budget for the prior fiscal year as determined by the director; and the supplemental reserve fund sum for fiscal year 2011 and each subsequent fiscal year shall be an amount equal to 1.5 per cent of the gross amount of the regional district budget for the prior fiscal year as determined by the director.
(d) In each year the amount required to be included in the budget for the supplemental reserve fund may be reduced by the amount, if any, remaining in the supplemental reserve fund established for the preceding year after all expenditures have been made from it as authorized in this act, and this remaining amount shall be retained in the supplemental reserve fund provided for the then current fiscal year.
(e) Transfers or expenditures may be authorized from the supplemental reserve fund of any fiscal year during that fiscal year only, and then only by the regional school district committee, and if the board continues in existence at the time of the transfer or expenditure, only with the approval of the board. Each transfer or expenditure request by the superintendent shall be accompanied by a written statement detailing the amount and the reason for the transfer or expenditure. Except for transfers or expenditures that are authorized in this act, there shall be no other transfers or reductions in the amount of this fund.
(f) All amounts required by this act to be included in the district budget for each fiscal year shall be included in the calculation of assessments to the member towns by the regional school district business manager. While the board remains in existence, the board, to the extent it considers it appropriate to effectuate the purposes of this act, may waive in part or in whole the requirements of this section.
SECTION 6. No official of the Pentucket regional school district, except in the case of an emergency involving the health and safety of persons or property, shall knowingly expend or incur liabilities in any fiscal year in excess of that official's spending authority established by a budget line-item or appropriation duly made in accordance with the law, nor commit the regional school district, nor cause it to be committed, to any obligation for the future payment of money in excess of that appropriation, with the exception of court judgments. Any official who intentionally violates this section shall be personally liable to the regional school district for any amounts expended in excess of the appropriation to the extent that the regional school district does not recover these amounts from the person or persons to whom the amounts were paid. The superior court or a single justice of the supreme judicial court shall have jurisdiction to adjudicate claims brought by the regional school district under this act and to order relief that the court finds appropriate to prevent further violations of this section. Any violation of this section shall be considered sufficient cause for removal.
SECTION 7. For the purposes of this act, the word "official" shall mean a regional school district administrator or other employee, permanent, temporary or acting, including the superintendent of schools, and all members of the school committee, and the word "emergency" shall mean a major disaster, including, but not limited to, flood, drought, fire, hurricane, earthquake, storm or other catastrophe, whether natural or otherwise, which poses an unexpected and immediate threat to the health and safety of persons or property.
SECTION 8. In any year during which bonds or notes authorized under this act remain outstanding, the commissioner of revenue may withhold the local aid payment to be made to the district on December 31 until an audit report for the preceding fiscal year has been received and accepted by the commissioner. The audit report shall be prepared by a certified public accountant in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards and shall include accompanying financial statements. In any year during which bonds or notes authorized under this act remain outstanding, the regional school district shall submit to the commissioner quarterly reports presenting a budget to actual comparison of revenues and expenditures. The written reports shall be submitted within 30 days after the conclusion of each fiscal quarter and shall be in such form and include such information and detail as the commissioner may prescribe.
In any year during which bonds or notes authorized by this act remain outstanding, the regional school district shall not issue any bond, note or other form of indebtedness without written notification to, and the approval of, the commissioner.
SECTION 9. This act shall take effect upon its passage.
Approved June 13, 2006.