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Board delays transfers of budget funds

The Holland School Board unanimously has agreed to table hundreds of thousands of dollars in year-end budget transfers because of questions over procedure and transparency.

Board members, who frequently spar over financial matters, were united during Monday's special meeting on their response to the administration's requests.

Jeremiah Kane, interim business leader in the district since January, pointed to a number of problems resulting in the need for budget transfers totaling $675,000 -- more than four times last year's amount. They included uneven accounting practices, expenses budgeted in incorrect accounts, overspending on some budget lines and a lack of communication between department heads and the business office on purchase orders.

"My goal is to be transparent," Kane said. "I don't like putting the board in this situation, but there are not many options. This is a way to step off for next year. This won't happen next year. We won't spend before things are approved," he said.

Kane pledged changes in procedures.

Superintendent Dennis Johnson reminded the board that the budget for the current school year was formulated before he arrived last February.

Board members, however, were displeased, particularly about a requested transfer for the unplanned purchase of a battery backup system totaling $107,000.

"The board has to approve budget changes. This looks like drawing down the well," said Fred Thurnherr, a board member.

The issue of year-end excess funds grew prickly even as Kane described the recent purchase of $100,000 in technology items through the Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Board of Cooperative Educational Services as an attempt to avoid an excessive fund balance, for which the district was criticized in a recent state audit.

But the board only became more perturbed after learning that the technology purchases included several iPads.

The board did agree to $200,000 in transfers related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Another special meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. today in the high school auditorium on remaining budget transfers.