A mistake could cost Palmer over half a million dollars

BOSTON (WWLP) – More than twenty years ago, a box was accidentally checked off that Palmer officials say gave the appearance that the town was spending less than the state’s minimum school spending requirement.

Last April, that error was discovered by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. All together the town has under spent more than $1 million, which could cost more than $600,000 in education funding penalties that would come out of the town’s Chapter 70 aid.

“We’re one of 127 communities where the contributions that we pay towards retired school employees’ health insurance isn’t counted,” said Palmer’s Town Manager Charles Blanchard.

The box should have been left unchecked to indicate that Palmer was contributing thousands of dollars to retiree health insurance. That money should have pushed them over the school spending requirement. Town officials proposed a bill that would waive all of the penalties, saying it is not fair that the town has to pay for a mistake that was made over twenty years ago.

Palmer State Representative Todd Smola said, “we’re talking about $600,000 that’s not going to be spent within the local munincipality. It’s not going to be spent on education, not being spent on making the budget operate in an efficient manner.”

The Joint Committee on Education will hold hearings in the next couple of weeks about the bill as town officials wait on a response.

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