District budget retreats focus on process

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Getting a better understanding of the school district budgeting process and the many factors involved has been among the goals for the Board of Education’s two recent budget retreat workshop sessions, with two more scheduled, says board President Paul Hagerty.

An initial session on Feb. 10 looked at “the administrative side of the budget,” while a second one Wednesday night addressed educational program categories which comprise the financial bulk of the budget, Hagerty said
Thursday.

The next session scheduled for Feb. 24 is to focus on capital planning processes such as for building projects, while a final session scheduled for March 3 is to be an overview of the total process, Hagerty noted.

A draft for a proposed 2021-22 district budget as compiled by the administration will “probably flow out...in a similar process” as in prior years, Hagerty commented. District Superintendent Peter C. Blake has said a presentation of an overall tentative budget proposal would not occur until mid-March at the earliest.

The board’s budget retreat sessions this year reflect a change in the early phases of the typical process and are “to me, a big advantage” in helping to “get more of an understanding” of it, observed Hagerty.

Emphasizing these are his personal impressions, he said he hopes the sessions will give the nine-member board “a more common level of understanding...what’s involved in the budget process.”

The sessions, which Hagerty said so far have each lasted about 90 minutes to two hours, have been conducted virtually and also have included Blake plus other administration officials including from the finance section.

The sessions have been closed.

The board over the years has periodically held retreat sessions for such purposes as training or discussions of various internal matters, with no official votes conducted.

The school district’s 2021-22 budget would take effect for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The current 2021-21 budget is $122.6 million.

The budget retreat sessions have included “trying to understand where we’ve been” along with “some options going forward” plus “what we foresee,” commented Hagerty.

He mentioned the impacts of COVID-19 on school district expenses including for the prior and current fiscal years.

The overall budget considerations involve “not only the expense side, but the revenue side” as well including state financial aid, he added. Besides state aid, a local property tax levy has been the next largest source of revenue to fund the budget.

Blake, in an online blog last month, mentioned the budget planning in relation to projected financial aid and said the upcoming budget cycle would “not be great, but it shouldn’t be armageddon.”

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