EAST GREENWICH — June Fisher, the head of the East Greenwich School District Finance Committee, gave the School Committee a formal outline of recommendations regarding the 2014 fiscal budget process during the School Committee’s meeting Tuesday night at Cole Middle School.
The recommendations brought forth by Fisher on behalf of the Finance Committee were divided into two categories – budgeting process and budget planning – to which Fisher said are essential to the goal of developing and presenting a “well-vetted, logical and transparent budget.”
In the budget process portion, Fisher stated that the budget owners need more help to identify, evaluate and present changes from year to year and be prompted to think about long-term budget impacts. So, Fisher stated the only way the Finance Committee can further assist in the process is to meet with budget owners after budgets are prepared and prior to being presented to the School Committee.
Therefore, the Finance Committee, Fisher said, recommends that the Director of Administration – Maryanne Crawford – develop a budget-build schedule that includes a firm due date for final budgets that will allow for Finance Committee meetings to be scheduled two weeks prior to workshop presentations and that the schedule should be both completed and approved by the School Committee by the first regular meeting in October.
“In this role, [the] Finance Committee can help make the School Committee presentations far more informative and effective,” said in the memorandum presented by Fisher Tuesday evening.
Fisher added that the total cost of significant line items isn’t easily visible, so the Finance Committee recommends including three supplemental district-wide schedules with each annual budget presentation. The three are ‘technology spending,’ which was included in the 2014 fiscal budget, an item called ‘pension expense, which is a single schedule providing both percentage and total dollar increases for each union contract for last year, the current year and projected years, if possible, and ‘deferred budget items,’ which is a roll-forward schedule to track items that were discussed but not included in the current year’s budget due to a lack of funding or other factors.
On the topic of budget planning, Fisher said the East Greenwich School District transitioning to a 1-to-1 learning environment – a discussion that has been occurring amongst school officials from East Greenwich High and the School Committee whether or not to fit each student with an iPad – has both “one time and ongoing budget impacts.”
So, Fisher stated the Finance Committee recommends to the School Committee that the initial 1-to-1 implementation and ongoing refresh and management be further scoped and documented in a comprehensive plan. The plan horizon should be about three to five years and the cost estimates, Fisher said, must be assigned to each component of the plan.
“The plan will serve as the (adjustable) roadmap ready for implementation when the budget can support it,” as stated in the memorandum. “Consideration should be given to utilizing outside consultants to assist with the development, and perhaps implementation, of a comprehensive plan because the 1-to-1 investment is significant and (essential to success).”
Fisher added that the Finance Committee recommends that the revised district strategic plan should call for regular evaluations of all programs and services within the School District through the use of objective metrics. She said some of the metrics might include the number of students who are served by the program or service, the true cost of delivering the program or service, the academic value and the relevance of the program in today’s economy.