The Budget and Finance School Committee began roughly at 5:30pm. In attendance is Alison Manugian, Peter Cronin, Leslie Lathrop, Director of Budget and Finance – Jared Stanton, Superintendent – Dr. Kristan Rodriguez, Christine Lynch of Department of Education and Secondary Education and two gentleman from MARS.
Christine Lynch was explaining the Regional School District Budget Preparation and Approval Process at the meeting tonight.
Regional Budget Preparation:
- School Committee Adoption – 2/3 vote
- Classified into categories and line items:
- Operating, Capital, Transportation
- Based level of detail desired by school committee/towns
- consistent with EOY chart of accounts
- Identify all revenue sources to support budget
- Include Chapter 70, transportation, general fund revenue
- Do NOT include grants, revolving (choice), trust fund revenue
Specify method of calculating member assessments for operating expenses.
- Statutory Method – 2/3 approval (this is currently the method used by Groton/Dunstable)
- MLC as determined annually by Commissioner
- Other amounts apportioned according to RSD agreement
- Amounts of MLC
- Members’s share of transportation, capital or any other expenses not included in the NSS amount.
- Alternative method – unanimous annual local approval
- All amounts needed to support he school committee budget, apportioned in accordance with RSD agreement.
- Total of eligible operating costs must meet the RSD’s net school spending requirement.
Currently G-D is reviewing our RSD (Regional School District) agreement and much like Ayer/Shirley or Acton/Boxborough we could creative an alternative method in which our two towns could fund our schools through a customized method that could better serve the financial abilities of both Groton & Dunstable. What is even more interesting to me; if this could actually be done so it could be presented to our towns for Spring or Fall meeting of 2016… both communities could then vote on the changes for approval so that the better method to fund our schools could be implemented for FY 2017. This could be a saving grace in how our towns could better financially accommodate the current needs of our children in 2017 and also give us a realistic approach in providing our children with a future Technology & Capital plan in future years to come.
Assessments Provided to Members:
- Within 30 days of the school committee vote
- Not later than April 30
- A vote by the local appropriating authority to approve the assessment constitutes approval of the RSD Budget.
Failure to Approve a Budget:
If the budget is not approved by 2/3 of members based on the statutory method or by all the members based on the alternative method:
- School Committee has 30 days to reconsider Budget; (+15, with approval of Commissioner)
- School Committee may reduce, increase or approve original amount;
- Assessments calculated based on recertified budget must be provided to members within 7 days of school committee approval.
Approval Process for Reconsidered Budget:
Members have 45 days from the school committee vote to act on the budget/assessment.
- 2/3 approval required for statutory method
- Unanimous approval for agreement method
- Considered approved by member if no vote is taken within 45 days
- Disapprove by member if town meeting is dissolved prior to voting
If necessary approvals are not secured, the budget is returned to school committee
School Committee Options:
School Committee may agree to reduce/increase budget and recalculate assessments to reflect amounts approved by town meeting.
- All assessments must be reduced/increased to reflect statutory or agreement assessment method.
- If amounts voted at member town meeting reflect the amounts apportioned based on school committee’s reconsidered budget, the budget is approved.
School Committee may resubmit budget for additional consideration by member towns.
Additional Town Action:
- In a district with 3 or more members, the budget and assessments are again submitted for town action.
- In a district with 2 members, the RSD convenes a district wide meeting of all registered voters from both members.
- A district wide meeting may only consider budgets based the statutory assessments method.
- Approval of the budget required a majority of voters present and voting by a counted vote.
- If adopted, the budget is apportioned to the members and paid accordance with the terms of RSD agreement.
District Wide Meeting:
- The meeting is open to all registered voters.
- Notice must be provided at least 14 days prior to the meeting.
- The warrant must state the time, place and purpose of the meeting.
- Notice shall be posted in each town clerk’s office, at two other public places in each member town and in one newspaper in general circulation within the municipalities.
- The Board of Selectmen by vote appoint town moderator or other person to act as moderator.
- The district secretary keeps the record of the meeting.
Notifications and action by DESE
- If budget will not be approved by July 1, the Superintendent notifies Commissioner of ESE.
- Commissioner sets interim monthly budget:
- Based on previous FY
- Higher amount as the Commissioner determines
- Assessments must be recalculated based on amount approved by the Commissioner.
- Member payments are made in accordance with time frame in regional agreement .
- In effect until, December 1st or until budget is approved locally.
State Fiscal Control:
As of December 1st if budget is still not passed
- Commissioner established the final budget for the FY.
- Assumes fiscal control of the district until end of current FY or until members approve budget for subsequent FY.
- No additional state funding as a result of ESE fiscal control.
- Adoption or reconsideration of budget.
- Transfer of budgetary authority between line items.
- Encumbrance of expenditure of funds not included in general fund budget .
- New or amended collective bargaining agreements
- New contracts or amendments with value of $25, 000 or more
- Establishment, increase or decrease of user fees
- may impound any unencumbered funds for such period of time as he determines
- may undertake any initiatives that he deems necessary to secure the financial stability of the district
- may designate a person to act on his behalf
I don’t think there is anyone out there that would prefer DESE to take over the financial control of our district verses having a thoughtful budget presented to the voters so they can choose how they want to spend their tax dollars. Our financial priorities should be based on what directly impacts the quality of living and value of our town…. that is our schools, fire and police. For the last five to seven years out of those three it has been our schools that have been overlooked. Its time to adequately fund our schools.
I look forward to hearing the Superintendent’s need assessment in November and will be sure to let everyone know when that is on the agenda. That is a meeting you will want to attend so you can ask questions and present your concerns.
Budget & Finance Committee Meeting adjourned roughly at 7pm.
The SC Workshop meeting immediately followed; in attendance was our Superintendent, Alison Manugian, Jon Sjoberg, Stephanie Cronin, Leslie Lathrop and Peter Cronin. Discussions from last week continued with the planning of upcoming community vision forum. They discussed the open ended questions and rough format for the community vision forum that will be offered to the voters of both Groton & Dunstable. For those that missed my last weeks blog, the forum is being established to help capture the true community vision for our district. There was talk of possibly offering some sort of food service i.e. coffee/muffins for participants and although childcare is not provided children are welcome to attend as this is a community forum. The anticipated date for the forum is at 10am on December 12, 2015 at the G-D High School and advertising for the event will get out to the public over the course of the next couple of weeks. Flyers will be circulated around both towns in various ways.