Out of the red? Schools' budget deficit for 2017-18 decreases
A special appropriation — a bailout from the Board of Finance, essentially — might not be needed for the schools to close out this year’s budget in the black, acting Superintendent Dr. Robert Miller told the Board of Education March 27.
The district’s interim business manager, Allan Cameron, said he believes that if the appropriation is necessary, it would likely come in under $250,000, Miller said.
“The indication is that we’re heading in the right direction,” Miller added.
The district is currently looking at an impending deficit of $599,816, down from last month’s estimate of just under $1 million.
With the budget freeze in place, Miller said, that number should be reduced.
Some savings were found in the district’s medical and other benefits accounts, which came in about $24,000 and $27,000 under budget, respectively, according to Cameron’s February financial report.
Miller said that the freeze has added a “filter” for spending requests at the school administration level, before the superintendent’s office even sees the requests.
“There are a lot of things that principals have said no to long before we have,” Miller explained.
According to the financial report, the freeze remains in place, and further belt-tightening may be needed to finish the school year without a deficit.
Board Chairwoman Fran Walton said the board would like to see the list of discretionary spending that was denied by principals.
“We’re in our third year now of a freeze,” she said.
The board would want to know if, for example, the freeze meant that all of the schools’ supply closets were empty by the end of the year, said board member Sharon D’Orso.
Board of Finance Chairman Dave Ulmer indicated on Feb. 20 that any special appropriation for the schools should go to a town meeting and vote.
“I don’t think that we need to ask for $600,000,” Miller said in response to a comment by Vice Chairman Doug Silver, who said it would be irresponsible to ask for anything less.
Miller repeated that the interim business manager said the request would likely be under $250,000 or that the schools could possibly finish at even.
Walton appeared surprised by the business manager’s optimism.
“I’d like to know where his crock of gold is then,” she said.