At the July 12 meeting, the School Committee had an update on the FY21 financial projection, and heard about a new policy to provide purchasing cards to certain staff members.
Summer School Committee meetings are not usually recorded
School Committee Comments
Aaron Pressman attended the first meeting of the Facility Financing Working Group, which includes members of the School Committee, Select Board, Finance Committee, and town staff. The group is discussing plans for future capital projects throughout the town, including DPW facilities, Emery Grover, Mitchell, and Pollard.
An interim Director of Health Services has been hired and will be announced soon.
There was discussion of whether the next annual performance report should be provided only online, or also be printed and mailed to residents. There was agreement that it is helpful to have printed copies of the report.
School Committee Policy DJH — Purchasing Cards (P-cards)
A draft of a proposed new policy was presented (pages 16-20 in the packet) which would provide purchasing cards (P-cards) to certain staff members. The goal of the cards is to make it easier to pay for certain expenses and supplies that are difficult to secure with traditional purchase orders, such as technology and travel. The policy is modeled on one already in place for some town employees. Dr. Gutekanst will decide who receives a card — at most about 50 staff members, most of whom will be principals and managers. The policy will be voted on at the end of the summer, and then training will be provided on how to use the cards.
FY21 Preliminary End of Year Financial Projection
Assistant Superintendent Anne Gulati presented an overview of the QIII and QIV financial projections. Due to a combination of careful budgeting and higher-than-expected funding through state and federal grants, it is anticipated there will be a surplus balance of approximately $3.5 million at the end of this fiscal year. About $2.5 million will be carried forward to the FY22 budget, while another $1 million will be returned to the Town.
The money carried forward, plus additional funding through ESSER II and III and other grants, will allow the district to meet some needs outside of the operating budget, including:
$1.5 million for summer and school-year intervention instruction (17.3 FTEs)
$1.5 million for Student Support Services (10.9 FTEs and tuition reserves)
around $750,000 for COVID testing (which may not in fact be needed)
almost $300,000 in subsidies for transportation, preschool, theater, and graphic arts
Support for Theater
At a previous meeting, concerns were raised about the lack of funding for theatrical productions proposed for the coming year. This was an error, the result of the budget being drafted in November of 2020 and not reflecting the prospect of in-person theater for the coming school year. But a robust discussion regarding overall investment in theater resulted. Dr. Gutekanst, SC Chair Connie Barr, and Fine & Performing Arts Director LeeAnn Sutton met with several parents from Friends of Needham Music, and a committee has been formed which will provide a vision for theater in Needham Schools. First steps for strengthening the program include:
hiring a new theater teacher, and increasing the position from .3 to .6 FTE
a needs assessment of the three theater venues
providing a $30,000 program subsidy to avoid an increase in student fees
While the district provides free transportation to K-6 students who live more than two miles from their school, other families can pay a fee to have their children ride the bus. The cost of transportation for fee-based riders is heavily subsidized, and the budget includes a $415,000 subsidy for the coming year.
An issue has been raised to the district regarding children with two households (primarily those with divorced parents) who must pay double to be transported to each home. This is due to the current policy of charging families for the seat on a specific bus, rather than for the service of transporting the child. Dr. Gutekanst recommends reviewing and possibly revising the policy to address this issue, though some research will have to be done as to both the financial and capacity impact this might have. A detailed overview of transportation use and cost is presented by Shane Marchand, Director of Transportation, each fall.
The following action items were approved by a 6-0-0 vote:
Approve FY21 Budget Transfers
Approve FY22 Revolving Funds Fees
Approve Portrait of a Needham Graduate 2021-2022 Action Steps
The next School Committee meeting is scheduled for August 24, 1:00pm, in the NHS library. That meeting is open to the public but will NOT be recorded for later viewing.