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HARVARD — A citizen’s petition has been filed to include an article on the town warrant seeking $25,000 for an independent audit of the school district’s special education expenditures.

The petition was submitted Jan. 29. It includes the minimum of 10 signatures for inclusion, said Town Clerk Janet Vellante.

Since it was received prior to town meeting being posted, the petition must be included as is on the warrant, said town administrator Timothy Bragan.

The petition was filed by Bolton Road residents Wade and Margo Holtzman.

Wade said he wants more information about special education expenditures, which are often difficult to evaluate due to confidentiality requirements.

“It’s a black box. Nobody is allowed to look at this,” he said. “How do I know as a taxpayer that someone has actively looked at the cheapest way to do these things?”

He stressed that he supports special education as his wife works in that field. He said he just wants to ensure the money is being used efficiently for the town.

The petition specifies that the auditing company would be chosen by the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee (FinCom).

Special education expenses have been a recurring topic in a budget season where the school district is seeking an additional $882,501 to balance its budget.

According to information distributed at the Jan. 30 FinCom meeting, special education expenditures in the omnibus budget have increased by $898,728 over the past three years and will have a bottom line of $3,106,990 in FY08.

School Committee Chairman Willie Wickman said she hasn’t seen the petition and wouldn’t comment on it, but the issue is on the committee’s radar.

The mandates that accompany special education are a significant expense that’s being felt in districts across the state, she said.

On a local level, she said a joint task force of the selectmen and Finance and School committees was formed to evaluate the issue last summer. It will return with recommendations shortly.

“The task force is hopefully going to give us a report at an upcoming meeting,” she said. “At the end of the day, if there’s anything that would benefit all of us from an audit, we’d do that.”

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