FAIRFIELD — A new town policy that prioritizes an endowment fund’s growth is working well, even though it has resulted in reduced funding for a local school music program, according to a Town Council member.

The council holds the purse strings on the Crawford Perpetual Music Fund, which has given about $35,000 annually over the past few years to support Lawrence High School’s band program.

Under the new policy, which ties disbursements to fund growth, the amount was reduced to $20,000 this year.

Steve Grenier, chairman of the School Administrative Unit 49 board, which includes the high school, said he is disappointed with the reduction, but the town says the reduction is necessary to maintain the purchasing power of the fund.

The fund was established with an initial endowment of $214,000 in 1977. Over the years, the fund has grown to a current balance of about $950,000, but its buying power has diminished because of inflation.

The council and the school continue to disagree on how to interpret the will of the man who created it, William Crawford.

Crawford’s will says the town should “invest and reinvest” the fund, and “to hold the same perpetually.”

Fairfield’s council has interpreted that language to mean that the money should be grown, at least to keep pace with inflation.

But Grenier said he understands the will to mean that the balance, not the purchasing power, is the minimum that needs to be maintained.

In October, the council established a policy that limits the disbursement amount to no more than 90 percent of the fund’s growth in that year.

Council member Michael Taylor, who represents the council on the Crawford Committee, said the policy is working well, and that the school and council have established a good working relationship under the new policy.

The policy prioritizes fund growth, but it also could result in very uneven funding levels for the music program, as the value of the fund rises and falls from year to year.

The fund has actually lost money in three of the last 11 years. In 2011, it earned $80,000.

In a boom year, Taylor said, 90 percent of the money would likely be allocated to the band, with the expectation that the money will help to get the band through the lean years of minimal or no earnings.

“If they have a banner year in interest, they’re going to hold some of that money over,” he said.

The first funding cycle under the new policy completed earlier this month, when the council approved the $20,000 disbursement on a unanimous 4-0 vote, with one member absent.

According to a budget submitted to the council by the Crawford committee, the money will be spent on a mixture of instruments and equipment, competition entrance fees, stipends, and student scholarships for summer camp tuition.

Grenier said the school’s music program, which teaches about 88 students, will suffer with the loss by reducing its scholarship opportunities and instrument purchases.

“We will have to make do,” Grenier said. “We feel saddened that they won’t give us the potential of what this will can allow.”

Taylor said the school could approach the council if something catastrophic happened. For example, he said, if a piece of equipment such as an amplifier were destroyed in an accident and insurance didn’t cover the replacement cost, the council would consider taking from the fund to make up the difference.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287
[email protected]

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