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Finance officials call for audits of BOE practices

August 2, 2018

GREENWICH — The chair of the RTM Finance Committee and members of the Board of Estimate and Taxation have called for an audit of Board of Education capital projects, after the BOE started construction at Julian Curtiss School this summer without funding in place.

“The RTM and the BET need to work with the Board of Education to make changes in policies and procedures to ensure that nothing like this can ever happen again,” Finance Committee Chair Rob Perelli-Minetti wrote in an email sent to many fellow RTM members Wednesday.

The RTM meets Thursday night to vote on an emergency interim appropriation of $617,000 to pay for the Julian Curtiss work, which would complete replacement of the elementary school’s roof.

The school board and BET both signed off on the appropriation late last week.

Town finance officials contacted the BOE in late July after discovering that funding for the roof work had not been appropriated.

BOE Chairman Peter Bernstein said earlier this week that the school administration will work with the BET and town Finance Department to review what happened.

“This work will result in positive change going forward and a closer relationship between the school and town side when it comes to project management and finances,” he said.

Julian Curtiss’ slate roof needed to be replaced when leaks continued after two patch jobs in 2012 and 2015. The replacement work was included in a bundle of roof projects approved at a cost of $2.715 million, including $550,000 for Julian Curtiss.

When the lowest bid for the Julian Curtiss roof came in at $1.7 million, school administrators decided to split the project into two phases. The first 60 percent cost $1.1 million, paid for by the budgeted $550,000 and unused funds from other school roof projects, and was completed last summer.

School administrators according to town budget rules were permitted to transfer an unused sum of $621,000 from the Greenwich High School gym roof project to the Julian Curtiss project on their own initiative.

School board members at the time believed there were still enough funds left over to cover the remaining 40 percent, to be finished this summer, according to the explanatory document that accompanied the request for the interim appropriation.

The BOE cited administrative changes — outgoing Superintendent Jill Gildea, Chief Operating Officer Lorianne O’Donnell and Director of Facilities Daniel Watson all started last year — and “general (town) ledger system limitations” for the funding mishap, according to the document, submitted to the RTM.

Perelli-Minetti and the chair of the RTM Budget Overview Committee jointly revised the document, which Greenwich Time received Wednesday.

“It does not appear that the BOE or its staff made any effort to determine whether carryover dollars and unused budgets were available to cover this project or whether additional funds would need to be appropriated in the FY18-19 capital plan,” the revised document states.

It also states that neither the BET nor the RTM were told that the low bid for Julian Curtiss came in at three times the estimated budget, or that “a contract for only a partial roof replacement was entered into.”

The second phase of the Julian Curtiss roof replacement had yet to be completed, but the 2017-2018 capital improvements budget only listed a roof replacement at Central Middle School and concrete masonry repairs as projects that needed funding.

School administrators signed a contract between Greenwich Public Schools and Streamline Roofing Services, LLC for the remaining Julian Curtiss work without an account code, a number that corresponds with an appropriation, and without the signature of the town comptroller, who certifies enough funds have been appropriated.

“This could create potential personal liability on the part of the official who authorized this work,” the RTM members wrote in their revised appropriation document.

jo.kroeker

@hearstmediact.com

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