NEW MILFORD — The school board has approved moving more than $371,000 from its capital reserve into the town’s general fund in what officials say is a new way to think about paying for capital projects.

The move comes at the request of the town and as the school board and Town Council begin to collaborate more on various projects. The two have recently partnered up to replace oil tanks at some of the school buildings and three town tanks.

They are also working together on replacing some of the school and town roofs and just partnered to switch the health insurance for town and school employees to the state plan, saving an estimated $2.5 million next year.

“It’s a fresh approach I think we should explore,” Board of Education Chairman David Lawson said.

Board member Tammy McInerney, the only vote against the transfer, said she supports the collaboration with the town but remembered when the schools had to find $450,000 to help the town close a $2.2 million gap last fiscal year due to a state funding cut. She said the schools then didn’t see any of the money when it turns out the state gave the town more education cost sharing money than expected.

“I just don’t think we should balance our town budget on the backs of our students,” she said.

She added that the schools’ capital reserve has been used for capital items for the schools, including the recent upgrade of the phone system, that she doesn’t think the town would support.

Most of the board said it wasn’t the school’s money and it was right to give it to the town, especially as they begin to partner more on these capital projects and look at the five year capital plan and technology cycle.

Generally, any unspent money from the schools’ budget goes into the capital reserve.

Mayor Pete Bass said the town asked for the money to help cover the costs of the boilers and to balance out costs. He said it was done as partners and he looks forward to the collaborations together.

“We continue to work on the dialogue and the partnership,” he said. “I’m very happy we’ve been doing that.”

This particular money comes from the 2016-2017 grievance liability fund.

Board member Joseph Failla said it would be shortsighted to vote against putting the money into the town’s general fund. He said the town will maintain the buildings and fix any of the problems that may arise that were generally covered by the capital reserve.

“They have an obligation,” he said.

He said that based on his experience as a town councilman, the auditors would like to see the town bond more, including grouping these smaller projects like the oil tanks and roofs together. A school board is unable to bond.

“For the moment, I have confidence in this administration that they will do the right thing for the schools,” Failla said.

Board member Angela Chastain said she agreed that it’s all the taxpayers’ money and Town Council already entrusts line item control to the school board over $64 million. She added that if any board member felt the capital reserve was low, it’s because the board used it for the past two budgets.

“That’s on us,” she said.

The capital reserve has about $726,000 in it.

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