Wednesday, December 6, 2017

MERSD Budget Season Underway!

The MERSD School Committee and Administration are committed to a transparent, open, and informed budgetdevelopment process.  In keeping with that commitment, this article is the first in a series designed to assist the communities of Essex and Manchester in learning more about MERSD and understanding the Regional SchoolDistrict budget process.  Throughout each budget season, we work cooperatively with the Boards of Selectmanand Finance in both Essex and Manchester to provide one another with on-going progress reports on our planning process and outlook. This year, we will, again, continue this very successful approach.

Budget Basics

MERSD begins its budget work in November.

The Superintendent and Director of Finance work with the school Principals, Director of Special Education, Director of Curriculum & Instructional Technology, and Facilities Manager to develop budgets for the core programs and operations of the MERSD.  These budgets have two parts:
  1. Level services or the same programs as the prior year.
  2. Expanded effort (additional costs needed to meet program requirements, federal and state     mandates, or other best practice needs as recommended by the MERSD Administration). 

The Director of Finance also develops forecasts for:
  • revenue sources (state and federal funding, grants, activity and program fees);
  • mandatory district-wide obligations (health insurance costs, personnel salary increases, retirement benefits costs, capital and operating expenses);
  • estimated assessments to the Towns for funding the MERSD budget. 

In early December, the Superintendent presents the draft budget to the School Committee and schedules a mid-December public hearing for the tentative budget. 

In January, the School Committee and the MERSD Administration, along with input from the communities, work to further refine the projections and approve a final budget for submission to the Towns in early February. During February and March, the School Committee and the District Administration continue to monitor assumptions and make adjustments when necessary.

During Manchester Town Meeting at the beginning of April and then Essex Town Meeting in May, voters from each town vote on the MERSD budget.  Both Towns must pass the MERSD budget at town meeting; otherwise, we are mandated to keep the prior year’s budget until another new budget is approved by both Towns. 
This budget process sequence is dictated by a combination of Town By-Laws, the MERSD Agreement, and State education laws. 

Building a school district budget seven months in advance of the start of the fiscal year isn’t easy, and it requires making numerous assumptions on some of the most significant components of the budget.  For example, the state sets its funding for schools in the spring, after the MERSD budget is completed and approved by the Towns.  Similarly, the increase in health insurance costs is unknown until much later in the year, and special education costs can change as children move into the district.  In short, these timing issues and others make it difficult to produce a completely accurate budget early in the process.

The 2018-2019 MERSD Budget

This week MERSD will formally began the budget process.  During the next few months, a great deal of our time and energy will be focused on the dollars and cents of the balance sheet.  What is important to keep in mind is that the balance sheet supports our primary goal of maintaining services and improving student achievement.

Budget Goals for FY19
~Develop and deliver a fiscally responsible budget that maintains educational quality, supports District goals, and aligns with our multi-year budget commitment to work within the confines of Proposition 2 ½
~Manage Enrollment
o   Strive to meet School Committee class size guidelines
o   Serve increasingly diverse student educational needs
~Exercise fiscal responsibility
o   Seek internal efficiencies to offset growth needs when possible
~Meet local, state, and federal responsibilities while controlling growth

The MERSD School Committee will hold its Tentative Budget hearing on Wednesday, December 13th at 7:30 at the MERMHS Learning Commons (2nd Floor).  This event is meant to provide the community with an opportunity to learn and ask questions about our proposed budget for FY19. 

Please visit our budget page [ Quick Link – MERSD Budget] for information about our budget process, a complete budget season calendar, and an information page highlighting the work going on in the district.

How To Participate and Learn More

Public comment is welcome at the beginning and end of working meetings of the School Committee. The public hearing on the budget will be December 13th, at 7:00pm in the Manchester Essex Regional Middle and High School. 

MERSD Tentative Budget Hearing
December 13th @ 7:00pm
MERMHS Learning Commons

To view this article and more information on the budget process, please visit our budget page on the MERSD website [ Quick Link – MERSD Budget].

If you have a specific comment / question related to the budget process it is recommended and requested that you contact the MERSD Administration or a School Committee member in advance.  It is also recommended and requested that you submit your comment / question by e-mail or in writing so that and accurate responses can be provided.  Comments and questions may be submitted to:

Thank you for your interest and support of our Schools!
MERSD School Committee, 
Pam Beaudoin, Superintendent 
Avi Urbas, Director of Finance and Operations